Just 23 percent of the assets of high net worth women in
Asia are managed by private banks in Singapore and 26 percent in
Hong Kong. RBS Coutts considers both of the Asian wealth hubs to
provide ideal stamping grounds for its new wealth management push.
William Cain reports.
RBS Coutts is aiming to win new clients by targeting high net worth
women in Asia, a group representing a $167 billion window of
opportunity for private banks.
According to a study carried out by RBS Coutts, women with
investible assets of more than $1 million represent a “large,
untapped market, worth approximately $55 billion in Singapore and
$112 billion in Hong Kong”.
Currently, private banks hold around 23 percent of total HNW female
financial assets in Singapore and 26 percent in Hong Kong. Those
figures put the segment on par with Asian entrepreneurs, which
separate Standard Chartered research showed had a similar
penetration rate (see PBI 243).
It is expected the number of wealthy women will grow more quickly
in Asia than other parts of the world because of higher growth
economies and the lower cost of live-in maids and child care, the
The private bank is looking to gain market share in the female HNW
segment through an initiative it is calling RBS Coutts Woman. It is
a reaction to increasing numbers of HNW women in the region, which
now total 16,000 in Singapore and 37,000 in Hong Kong, and what
Esther Heer, head of private banking north Asia for the bank,
described as “insufficient understanding of their needs in managing
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“Women consider their relationship managers to be ill-equipped to
provide information that is clear and relevant to their needs,”
said spokesman Felix Chan.
“As a result, women turn to informal networks – the press,
internet, co-workers – for investment ideas and information.”
Current services, according to the research, do not engage with
women well enough, leaving them dissatisfied with the lack of
relevant information provided. The initiative will focus on
differentiating services and communication, though the bank
believes women-only products are not necessary.
The findings reflect those of a recent report by PBI’s parent
company VRL Publishing, Creating Female Friendly Financial
The report concludes that marketing defines the targeting of
financial products at women, and that the creation of specific
women-only products is rarely successful.
The more skillfully the marketing is designed and presented, on the
basis of thorough local knowledge, the better the opportunity to
exploit the female financial services market.
In an interview for the report, UK Asian businesswoman of the year,
Gita Patel said the experience of the sale for a woman is as
important as the product being sold.
“If I go to buy a dress in a particular shop, but the assistant is
rude to me, or I am made to feel uncomfortable for any reason, then
I will not complete the sale there,” she said.
While women may feel patronised by being offered female-only
products, they are interested in different types of products to
men. Heer sums this up in the initiative as “treat me like a man,
talk to me like a woman”.
In particular, the bank says women tend to trade less than men and
are more risk averse, preferring steady gains from their
investments. They expect more detailed information than male
counterparts when making decisions on their wealth and prefer more
proactive, regular and personalised communication.
Heer said the bank would aim to make its proposition as tailored as
the one offered by Coutts & Co, its UK-based sister
“We identified the opportunity for a woman-specific proposition
back in 2007, commissioned the research which provided the impetus
to further shape, stress test and launch the new initiative,” added
“Having Coutts & Co launch their ‘women’ proposition in the UK
several years before us also provided valuable insights when
developing the initiative for Asia.”
The programme will offer financial advice for women planning to
start families or taking sabbaticals or career breaks.
As well as standard wealth management products and services, RBS
Coutts Woman will also be used as a platform to bring together
women for networking events, where they can share interests in
areas such as the arts, sports or philanthropy.
The RBS Coutts Woman brand will be used in marketing, and is being
heavily promoted at the Women in Asia Awards, which is being used
as a launch pad for the brand.
In addition to external promotion, the initiative is also being
used internally to promote greater awareness among private bankers,
including training workshops.