Credit Suisse Private Banking plans to grow its APAC family office services team over time by hiring specialists and grooming talent from within, according to team head Thomas Ang.
“We have the intent to build [the team] but it will take a while,” Ang, the private bank’s Asia Pacific head of family office services, tells Asian Private Banker.
Ang explains that his unit’s offering is not aimed at the mass market but is rather tailored for individual families. For this reason, Ang says that buy-side practitioners with family office experience will be preferred additions to the team. “Clients are more interested in hearing from people from the buy-side than from the sell-side.”
Asian Private Banker reported last month that the Swiss private bank had appointed Tan Mae Shen, who was previously CIO of an Asian-American family office, as a senior specialist who supports relationship managers in Hong Kong and Singapore. Tan reports directly to Ang.
Francois Monnet, head of Greater China at Credit Suisse Private Banking, says that the family office services team mirrors the broader private bank in that it has an advisory slant.
“It is a multidimensional set up with an advisory intent, offered where the client is thinking about generational transition of business and wealth, and augments the overall client relationship,” says Monnet.
HNWIs in China eager to learn
Succession planning has become a pressing issue among wealthy Chinese families, 54% of whom have already started planning or plan to start within three years, according to a joint report by China Industrial Bank and Boston Consulting Group.
Monnet notes that Chinese families accounted for about 40% of all attendees at the fourth edition of Credit Suisse’s Family Office Forum, compared with just 10% at the same event three years ago – reflecting the growing demand for family office solutions among China’s HNWIs.
“In Southeast Asia, we spend years talking to families about the concept of a family office and why they might [need] that, while in North Asia, the notion of ‘why’ is understood very quickly by Chinese families,” says Monnet, adding that there is an “absolute sense of urgency” among Chinese clients.
However, the entrepreneurial disposition of Chinese HNWIs can create challenges when it comes to succession planning, partly since many in the second generation are not yet ready to take over the helm of family businesses.
“To ensure smooth transitions when they retire but their children could be still too young to take over, many of them look to the West, by taking field trips to prestigious universities like Harvard, or visiting famous wealthy families to understand how these families can last multiple generations,” Ang says.
Meanwhile, Ang says that for many families in the country, trust is as important as competence when it comes to seeking family office advice. “Trust is important in China,” he adds.
Ang notes that when setting up family offices, wealthy Chinese families tend to involve more professionals than their counterparts in Hong Kong. This, he says, is simply due to smaller family trees in the Mainland.
“For Chinese clients, it’s simply a lack of choice, they have to get professionals and the assets they look after are not small.”