Intesa Eyes London's Rich Italians as Money Shifts From Zurich

Intesa Sanpaolo SpA said it’s targeting wealthy Italians living in London to grow its private-banking business and capture money that it expects to flow into the U.K. from Switzerland.

Changes to bank secrecy laws mean “the Swiss will lose their competitive advantage to London,” said Paolo Molesini, managing director of Intesa’s private-banking division, at a briefing in London on Tuesday. “It’s also more fun to have a weekend in London than Zurich, so we think more and more money will move” to the U.K. capital, he added.

Italy’s second-largest lender officially opened its private-banking branch in London this week and said it plans to pursue "aggressive" hiring in 2016 by adding at least 15 private bankers, according to a presentation. Intesa will seek to initially manage the money of the richest among Italy’s 500,000 expatriates living in the U.K., before opening branches in New York and Hong Kong.

Intesa Chief Executive Officer Carlo Messina is expanding asset management and private banking to boost profitability and help counter the effect of low interest rates, which are eroding income on lending and deposits. He said Tuesday that the bank would hire from competitors, rather than seek growth through acquisitions. In May, Messina said he was seeking to acquire an international private bank.

The lender’s private bank manages about 184.2 billion euros ($196 billion) of funds.

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