Europe Turmoil Shows Why Deutsche Bank Chases Wealth Abroad

What's Driving the Spotlight on European Banks?
  • Firm is seeking to become a top-five wealth manager by 2020
  • Assets to rise even as stricter tax rules apply, Campelli says

Deutsche Bank AG is pushing ahead with plans to become one of the world’s top five wealth managers as the business outlook for European banks worsens because of the Brexit vote and Italy’s banking crisis.

Market volatility after the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union underscores the need for Germany’s largest bank to bolster its presence outside the region and expand fee income from looking after rich people’s money, Fabrizio Campelli, the lender’s global wealth management head, said in an interview in Singapore.

Shares of Deutsche Bank have erased almost half their value this year and touched a record low last week as investors lose faith that the company can lift returns. Wealth management is becoming a bigger priority for the Frankfurt-based bank and rivals such as UBS Group AG as Brexit-linked economic uncertainty and market gyrations dim already-bleak prospects for trading and investment banking.

Campelli said senior executives at the bank remain committed to the plan to expand in wealth management, and he hasn’t had any requests to scale it back since the recent upsets in financial markets. However, he said he remains alert to market conditions. “We will not put our head down and march into the future without staying very well aware of what’s happening around us,” he said in the July 7 interview.

Shares of Deutsche Bank rose 1.2 percent to 11.89 euros as of 9:49 a.m. Monday in Frankfurt, paring this year’s loss to 47 percent.

Campelli repeated the bank’s goal to become a top-five wealth manager by assets by 2020. Deutsche Bank was ranked 12th in 2014, based on assets under management, according to Scorpio Partnership, a London-based consulting firm. That ranking includes U.S. firms that don’t have a global presence.

While he’s trying to boost clients’ assets, Campelli acknowledged that tighter regulation is affecting how wealth managers take on customers and may force the bank to drop some existing clients who can’t prove their tax compliance. Among the new rules are the so-called common reporting standards that require the exchange of tax information among a group of mostly developed countries, he said.

“When clients cannot articulate to us their adherence to tax policy, there are situations in which we need to part way with them,” said Campelli. “It’s a difficult process but it’s actually one that ultimately will make us and the industry safer and more resilient.”

For more on how the bank sees Brexit affecting investment banking, click here.

Campelli said he expects “some ups and downs” in assets under management this year as a result of that process, offset to some extent by clients who are coming to the bank to seek investment advice during the market turbulence.

Deutsche Bank has also been reviewing its procedures for bringing on new customers in an effort to tighten controls following scandals including the manipulation of benchmark interest rates. That has sometimes resulted in a loss of business, according to the company.

The bank’s invested wealth management assets, which include those held on behalf of customers for investment purposes, totaled 270.80 billion euros ($300 billion) in the first quarter, down from 285.4 billion euros in December. The reduction partly reflected clients’ deleveraging, the bank said in its first-quarter report. About 47.6 billion euros of that were in Asia, Campelli said.

Asia, followed by the U.S., offers more attractive prospects than Europe, where interest rates are likely to remain low, he said.

Asia Promise

“Asia’s wealth outlook remains more positive than pretty much any other part of the world,” said Campelli, who was on his sixth visit to the region since he took the role in October. “We expect profitability to be enhanced across all the regions but the AUM buildup will be particularly strong in this part of the world.”

The bank is increasing headcount in Asia, as well as investing in technology infrastructure and compliance, Campelli said. It’s adding relationship managers in the region after expanding its focus to the high net worth segment, or those with assets in the $5 million to $20 million range, from people that are wealthier. In the U.S., Deutsche Bank will continue to serve clients with more than $20 million, a group known as ultra high net worth, he said.

Protect Franchise

“The intention is to invest in protecting our franchise this year and therefore addressing some of the volatility,” he said. “But from 2017 onwards some of the investments will kick in.”

Deutsche Bank will add 25 relationship managers annually in Hong Kong and Singapore over the next five years, Asia-Pacific wealth management head Ravi Raju said June 15. The firm will wait for a couple of years before it establishes any wealth business in mainland China because it doesn’t want to overstretch itself, said Campelli, who joined Deutsche Bank in 2004.

“China is a market that requires a bigger investment and broader infrastructure to ensure that we cover the right clients,” he said. Given its importance, he added, “it’s only a matter of time that we look at it as the next engine for growth.”

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