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Taiwan Asset Management Steams Ahead

Lachlan Colquhoun, Asia Pacific Editor, Sydney, 13 July 2007

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Taiwan might be politically isolated, but the rapid growth in wealth of its citizens has put it firmly on the radar of some of the world’s largest wealth management players. According to the most recently available industry statistics, the number of high net worth individuals in Taiwan rose by 6.7 per cent year on year to 59,000 people. These people possessed combined assets of $190 billion, or an average of $3.3 million each. Geographically, these are spread largely across the northern area of Taiwan, with the regions of Taipei, Hsinchu City and Taoyan County accounting for 72 of every 100 dollars in new bank deposits. About 0.7 per cent of these rich Taiwanese are “ultra”high net worth individuals, who control more than $30 million in assets. In a regional context, Taiwan residents control 2.5 per cent of the $7.6 trillion in assets owned by wealthy individuals in Asia. As a result, a number of major international players are moving into Taiwan either by bulking up their Taiwanese operations or, in some cases, through acquisitions of local players. Competitors in the market include major multinationals such as UBS, HSBC, Citigroup and ABN Amro, as well as leading domestic banks such as Chinatrust Financial and Taishin Financial. American International Group, the world’s biggest insurer, is also branching out into wealth management in Taiwan and is aiming for $20 billion in assets within five years at its new Taiwan wealth management unit, which is slated for opening in September. AIG also recently received a brokerage licence from Taiwanese regulators. “Taiwan is the most important market in Asia for AIG Private Bank,” unit head Mark Wei told Reuters recently. “We hope to become a tier-one player in Taiwan.” AIG’s strategy is to cross sell its wealth management business by marketing to the 10,000 high net worth clients that its insurance arm now serves. AIG estimates that each of these clients has investable assets of $2 million, and aims to make all of them clients of its wealth management arm. BNP Paribas is also pushing its private banking business in Taiwan, signing a business development agreement with Taiwan Co-operative Bank, the largest commercial bank with 295 branches. Another foreign bank with Taiwanese ambitions is Citibank, which announced in May the establishment of its first flagship branch since the acquisition of the Bank of Overseas Chinese. The branch is located in the high-tech industry hub of Hinschu, which is also a stronghold for Standard Chartered, which has merged with local bank Hsinchu Commercial. The Hsinchu deal makes StanChart the biggest franchise network of any international bank, with 86 branches nationwide. It also has plans to service Taiwanese clients working in China, and boost its branch network on the mainland from 21 currently to 40 by the end of the year. Of the 76 domestic Chinese banks, Taishin Bank has the most wealth management centres, with 10 spread around the country, the majority in the north. Other major banks such as First Bank, Co-operative Bank and the Central Trust of China have opened wealth management centres in the last year, while Bank of Taiwan has announced it will target wealth management after its merger with the Central Trust of China.

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