DBS Group to Expand Private Banking in China, Middle East

DBS Group Holdings Ltd. will invest S$250 million ($198 million) to expand private banking over five years, including hiring in China and setting up an international desk focusing on the Middle East and emerging markets.

The bank, Southeast Asia’s largest, started a service targeting individuals with more than S$1.5 million of investable assets, it said in Singapore today. That is an extension of its private banking operation, which caters to customers with more than S$5 million each.

Singapore’s importance as a wealth management center has been rising as Europe struggles with the sovereign debt crisis and the U.S. economic recovery weakens. Asia hasn’t been immune to Europe’s woes, with stocks in the region declining today after Italy’s credit rating was lowered at Standard & Poor’s.

“Notwithstanding the present market volatilities, Asia is experiencing rapid wealth creation and we remain optimistic about the long-term prospects of the region,” DBS Chief Executive Officer Piyush Gupta said in a statement.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.8 percent as of 4:37 p.m. in Tokyo, extending a two-week decline.

Singapore is the fifth-largest offshore private banking center, with $512 billion in assets at the end of 2010, according to the Boston Consulting Group, which counted those with over $1 million in investable assets. Switzerland, the largest, had about $1.7 trillion.

Asia-Pacific millionaires outnumbered those in Europe for the first time in 2010, according to a survey by Capgemini SA and Bank of America Corp. DBS said it will set up its international desk by the end of the year, it said today.

“Over the next five, 10 years, the growth in high net worth will be structurally a much stronger story in Asia compared to other parts of the world,” Amar Gill, head of special projects research at CLSA Ltd., said today at a conference in Hong Kong.

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