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Bank of Singapore eyes private banking big leagues with US$2.5tn wealth transfer

Rodney Sin, Bank of Singapore
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Bank of Singapore is betting that its focus on tapping into Asia’s multi-trillion dollar generational wealth transfer will propel it into the upper echelons of the region’s private banking landscape within three to five years.

The bank currently sits in 9th place in Asian Private Banker Asia 2023 League Tables with US$116 billion in AUM, down 3.3% from the prior year. But with US$2.5 trillion in Asian wealth predicted to be handed over to the next generation by 2030, Bank of Singapore has identified its next big growth engine.

That responsibility falls to Rodney Sin, a 17-year veteran of the company who already has plenty on his plate as co-head of private banking in Singapore, as well as responsibility for the key growing markets of offshore Greater China, Japan, and NRI.

“Next-gens are also more skewed towards disruptive technology, digital assets, alternatives and ESG-related ideas.”

His task will not be easy, though, with BNP Paribas Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management and Citi Private Bank also going after next-gen clients. Sin believes a new branding campaign could be Bank of Singapore’s secret weapon.

No thanks, dad

While private banks in Asia are trying to capture the massive wealth transfer from the first generation of wealth to the next, one challenge is how to attract and keep next-generation clients when they are not interested in dealing with “their dad’s banker“.

“Our strategy has three pillars: education, investment, and community,” explained Sin. Bank of Singapore has divided next-gen clients into two main groups: the “20s to 30s” and the “30s to 40s.” The bank will provide tailor-made education for each group’s needs at different stages of life.

“Next-gens are also more skewed towards disruptive technology, digital assets, alternatives and ESG-related ideas. So in terms of the bank’s capability, this is the sweet spot where we continuously increase our capability to engage them.”

Building a global next-gen community is core to Bank of Singapore’s next-gen services. Sin shared that since 2015, the bank has held more than 15 events with more than 500 next-gen clients attending.

When it comes to next-gen coverage, BOS divides its bankers into three categories: senior bankers (covering the first generation); core bankers (covering a wider spectrum of clients), and junior bankers (aged 28 to 35, who engage with the next-gen clients).

The bank had about 400 relationship managers as of the end of 2023, APB Insights showed.

“One of the ways that we do [cater to next-generation clients], is to partner senior bankers with junior bankers, with the senior bankers engaging the first-gen clients, and the junior bankers serving the relevant next-gen clients from the family,” Sin explained. He added that this model is most ideal for the bankers to have the engagement with next-gen, as well as providing the institutional and investment approach for the first-gen and the whole family holistically.

Big opportunities

Bank of Singapore’s global CEO Jason Moo has previously outlined the lender’s ambitions to reach AUM of US$145 billion by 2025, which it cannot achieve by focusing on next-gen alone. Another big avenue of growth could be family offices.

Singapore currently has 1,400 single-family offices (SFOs), according to Sin, of which Bank of Singapore is houses one-third.

“Our global and holistic advisory capabilities in family governance and wealth planning are another other area which is highly demanded, and BOS Trustee Limited is one of the most established and oldest trusts in Singapore.”

Sin highlighted that the Bank of Singapore’s SFO clients grew by 30% in 2023, and that the bank aims to continually enhance wealth transfer, wealth and succession planning, and next-gen services, which are all rising in importance.

Greater China and NRI

Greater China clients flocked to Singapore over the past three years, particularly when Singapore opened to the world during COVID-19. Sin said his team has seen growth and the momentum is expected to extend into 2024.

“There are a few reasons for this growth that are consistent with investors from other markets, including Singapore being an attractive hub for them to conduct their businesses,” he said.

“Our investments in human capital – training and strategic hiring – to serve this market has also brought new opportunities for the bank.”

Sin shared that over the last two years, across 2022 and 2023, Bank of Singapore has deepened its coverage of the Greater China region with over 150 hires in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.

Similarly, AUM from the whole Greater China region increased by about 10% for the same period.

Regarding non-resident Indian (NRI) coverage, Sin commented that the bank currently has no plans to go to onshore India to chase domestic wealth. But his stance on the NRI market is that it is a growth market.

“While the NRI talent pool is rather scarce in both Singapore and Hong Kong, Bank of Singapore has one of the largest teams of NRI coverage globally. Our current strategy remains offshore NRI business where we continue to develop our internal talent as well as external hirings.”

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