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Bank of Singapore’s Malhotra eyes “massive” opportunities for UHNW NRI clients

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Bank of Singapore is looking to cater to the rising interest amongst ultra high net worth non-resident Indians for both global and onshore India opportunities, according to Vikram Malhotra, global market head, South Asia and Middle East at Bank of Singapore.

“60-70% of our NRI clients are ultra high net worth individuals,” Malhotra told Asian Private Banker. “They make up the bulk of our NRI assets under management, which is steadily growing year-on-year as their wealth continues to grow.”

According to Malhotra, NRI clients are taking a heightening interest in India onshore investment opportunities as their wealth burgeons.

“India is the top recipient of inbound remittances globally at about US$80 billion in 2018,” he pointed out. “NRIs have about US$126 billion invested in NRI deposit schemes, which is only a small and partial measure of their engagement with India opportunities.”

For the Singaporean lender, this represents a “massive and sustained” business opportunity — which Malhotra calls the “India Corridor” — to capture the investment and wealth management needs of India’s wealthiest, both inbound and outbound.

“Increasingly, our NRI clients are embracing discretionary portfolio management capabilities or advisory portfolio management capabilities,” Malhotra said. “A lot of clients take up a combination of the two. We’re seeing greater money flow and performance has been good as well.”

To sustain and sharpen its proposition for the ultra high net worth, Bank of Singapore has turned its attention to the growing linkages between India’s private investors and global markets, as well as the needs of and penchant amongst UHNW NRIs for institutional-quality product and service offerings that match those in corporate and investment banking.

“Being a standalone private bank enables us to be nimble and to react fast to market conditions,” Malhotra said. “At the same time, the strong parentage we have from OCBC allows us to leverage the group’s wide array of capabilities concomitant with being a full-fledged universal bank.”

Using a “three-hub strategy” to cover the NRI segment, the private bank currently has more than 80 relationship managers based in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai addressing NRI clientele across all of Asia and the Middle East as a single unified Global South Asia and Middle East team.

“The opening of our London branch earlier this year is [also] giving us access to a large part of the Indian diaspora, which represents another strong opportunity for our NRI proposition,” Malhotra said, referring to the official opening of the Luxembourg-headquartered BOS Wealth Management Europe (BOSWM).

While Bank of Singapore has yet to show its hand when it comes to its intentions towards onshore play, it dipped a toe in the water earlier this year by entering into a strategic partnership with Edelweiss. With an aim to address NRI clientele’s intensifying interest in onshore India opportunities, the partnership offers clients of both entities access to their respective product platforms.

“Regarding our MoU with Edelweiss — they are one of the largest and most successful wealth managers in India,” Malhotra said. “Their ability to offer truly differentiated offerings in the onshore Indian market enables us to position ourselves to capture large and attractive opportunities in the ‘India Corridor’ space.”

Bank of Singapore’s assets under management have notched up to US$108 billion (S$146 billion) as at 31 March 2019, according to OCBC Group’s 1Q19 financial results.

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