SG Private Banking sets up fiduciary services
Merrill Lynch sues
banking family…
Macquarie enters Singapore
wealth arena…
BoComm turns to private
Luxembourg resolute on secrecy


SG Private Banking sets up fiduciary services

SG Private Banking has created a global wealth planning and
fiduciary services division as part of its continued push to
strengthen its worldwide presence.

The division will provide services from eight main locations:
London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore, Luxembourg, Jersey, Guernsey and
the Bahamas, supporting SG Private Banking’s client relationship
managers and assisting in the structuring of clients’ assets. A
total of 230 specialists across 12 locations will make up the new

The service will report to SG Private Banking’s commercial and
international marketing department in Paris, which was itself set
up in January 2008 in an effort to streamline international
communication strategies.

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London-based Olivier Gougeon will head the wealth and fiduciary
division at both SG Private Banking and the SG Hambros Bank
subsidiary, supported by Luxembourg-based Claudio Bacceli,
Singapore-based Luke Peng and France-based Jean-Marie


Merrill Lynch sues banking family

Merrill Lynch is suing three members of the Nasser banking family,
claiming their high-risk trading, which included short selling of
put options on Bear Stearns, cost Merrill more than $78

The brokerage alleges that Ezequiel Nasser, his uncle Albert and
son Raymond subsequently refused to settle their losses despite
previously claiming to have a net worth of $200 million.

The Nassers, claims Merrill, used offshore funds based in the
Virgin Islands to defraud the firm. The funds – Global Strategies,
Excel Opportunities Fund, Saluc, and Inversiones Patagonia
International – were named alongside the Nassers as defendants in
the New York County Court filing. Merrill said the defendants are
also members of the famous Safra banking family.


Macquarie enters Singapore wealth arena

The Macquarie Group has opened a private wealth office in
Singapore, representing the first time the Australian bank has
extended its private banking services beyond its home

Citing the annual 10.1 percent growth rate in high net worth
individuals currently seen in Asia as motivation for the move,
Macquarie added that the launch also made sense on a logistical
level, the bank having had a presence in the region since

Macquarie Private Wealth Asia will allow ultra high net worth
clients to utilise the same deal flows as those enjoyed by
institutional investors at the firm’s existing corporate finance
advisory business in Singapore, the bank said.

The new office will be headed up by Joseph Poon, a former head of
JP Morgan Private Bank in south Asia.


BoComm turns to private banking

China’s Bank of Communications (BoComm) is to introduce a private
banking offering in Shanghai in an effort to tap into the country’s
burgeoning wealth market that will also involve the leveraging of
BoComm’s branch network.

BoComm will trial private banking services for clients with a net
worth of at least $2 million within its branches in Beijing,
Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, according to China

Xu Hao, deputy director of the private banking management centre at
BoComm, said the top 5 percent of the bank’s retail clients account
for 75 percent of turnover, highlighting the opportunities
available to the business.

BoComm, in which HSBC has a near 20 percent stake, has also been
granted regulatory approval to manage almost RNB100 million ($14.3
million) worth of assets for an unnamed Shanghai-based firm via the
Bank of Communications Schroder Fund Management venture it formed
with Schroders in 2005.


Luxembourg resolute on secrecy issues

The ongoing Liechtenstein tax investigation will not dissuade
Luxembourg from continuing to maintain high standards of banking
secrecy, the country’s treasury minister has said.

Luc Frieden said that the forthcoming reassessment of the EU
savings tax directive, brought forward to May following lobbying
efforts from Germany, was unlikely to produce dramatic changes
because of the need for a consensus decision.

The 2005 directive, aimed at boosting financial transparency
between member states, saw Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium win the
right to opt out from its demands but did ensure that they agreed
to introduce a withholding tax in return for not declaring income
(see PBI 234).

Speaking at the Reuters Funds Summit, Frieden commented: “The last
discussions lasted for eight or 10 years, these ones would last for
even longer.

“The Luxembourg government sees no need and will not come up with
new proposals in this context and will not change the bank
confidentiality rules as they have proven to be in the interest of
a good working system in Europe.”


Money laundering on the rise in Switzerland

The Switzerland Money Laundering Reporting Office (MROS) has
revealed that the number of transactions thought to be connected to
money laundering in the country rose by 28.4 percent in 2007, the
agency receiving 795 reports from financial intermediaries last
year compared with 619 in 2006.

Figures for the banking sector rose by 37 percent to a record high,
MROS said, with particularly strong increases in suspected
investment fraud. The rise was put down to the more efficient
anti-money laundering measures that are now in place at most

Across all sectors, the total value of suspicious activity reports
rose by 13 percent from CHF816 million ($815 million) in 2006 to
CHF921 million last year.


Merrill chief defends structure, sees board

Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain has said the company intends to make
directors seek re-election on an annual basis as part of a drive to
improve practices at the firm, but maintained that a split of its
brokerage and investment bank units was not on the cards.

Speaking at Merrill’s annual general meeting, Thain cautioned that
losses were easy to criticise with “20/20 hindsight”, adding that
he maintained a cautious optimism over prospects for 2008 and
paying tribute to the company’s composition.

“The combination of the world’s leading wealth-management business
with a global investment-banking, sales and trading franchise makes
tremendous strategic sense,” the CEO told shareholders.

Thain, hired in December 2007 after subprime exposure led to the
departure of then-CEO Stanley O’Neal, also denied suggestions that
he would leave Merrill to work for a John McCain administration if
the Republican senator became president in 2009.