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Poised for growth
THE symbol for the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), a golden lion clutching a globe, is an apt one describing the Canadian giant's global reach from North America into Asia.
After carefully laying the groundwork in the past few years, RBC continues to build its private banking offerings in the region, said Tho Gea Hong, RBC's head of wealth management for South-east Asia and an industry veteran with 28 years' experience.
"We are committed to Asia," she said, noting that senior roles within the firm have been filled both through local promotions and from across RBC.
"We have a very strong team and we are positioned to grow."
The bank has developed its distribution and market segmentation strategy while laying out its product platform - all while riding on its parent bank's financial strength and support network.
"There's a lot of excitement now because all the pieces have been put in place," Ms Tho said.
In Asia, RBC employs 1,800 people, including 800 in Malaysia servicing its substantial investor and custodian services business.
"This isn't just a numbers game. We grow by developing our talent internally and bringing in quality people with a passion for client service," she said.
RBC Wealth Management's regional office is located in Singapore and employs 200 people mostly focusing on private banking and investments. Its other private banking hub is in Hong Kong, focused on North Asian client wealth management needs.
Private banking is based on trust, and the relationship formed between a skilled banker and client is hard to replace.
"I look for experienced people with integrity, credibility, and an adaptable skill set. It is not easy to find them but when we do, it's a good fit for us, for them and for our clients," she said.
A trusted brand
As the largest bank in Canada, RBC is a multinational financial services giant with over 80,000 employees worldwide.
Its global coverage, stability and breadth of services, and Canadian background are appreciated by many clients, especially those in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia, Ms Tho said.
"Families are a lot more mobile today. Some family members might be living in Canada, the US, China, and Hong Kong," she said.
"RBC is well positioned to be able to support these families and their diverse wealth management needs. For instance, if they want to send their children to the UK or Canada to be educated, and need to buy a property there, we have the capacity and experience in offering solutions for complex client needs."
In 2015, RBC bought US bank City National Bank, well known for banking sportsmen and celebrities.
The acquisition has further strengthened high net worth service capabilities. In Singapore, the bank has built an experienced team to run its growing discretionary mandates business.
"Our clients lead busy and demanding lives, which can mean that they want to use discretionary mandates, managed by experienced industry professionals. This is especially relevant in the current challenging market environment where it is important to monitor the market closely and be nimble," Ms Tho said.
"Being deeply connected to our global investment team that manages over US$430 billion globally and has robust North American and European coverage in equities and bonds also puts us ahead of the curve."
Ms Tho is herself a recent hire. She joined RBC in 2016 from another boutique private bank, attracted by the opportunity to work with a close-knit team and to take RBC Wealth Management to the next level.
With economic growth in Asia, the numbers of newly-minted millionaires are increasing every year, she said.
"We have an opportunity here in Singapore because there are still a number of countries where high net worth individuals have to worry about the political environment and feel safer investing in a stable environment."
In terms of size, RBC is also in a sweet spot, she said. It has the balance sheet and capital to buoy client needs and the service expertise required to deeply understand and support high net worth individuals.
And as she focuses on expanding RBC Wealth Management in the Asia, she is savouring every moment.
"There's never a day where I'm tired of my job, not when things are moving so fast," she said.
"Client needs keep changing and there are new things to learn. Every day, you're on the move, helping clients achieve their goals."