Spain: Santander sets up UK wealth

US: HSBC unloads tax advisory unit…

Latin America: Sabadell buys BBVA Latino private

Middle East: Sarasin sets up subsidiary in

Santander sets up UK wealth heavyweight

Grupo Santander, the Spanish bank, has created a new UK wealth
management operation in a reorganisation that it claims helps give
it impressive new global scale.

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The establishment of the new unit, Santander Private Banking UK,
makes it the first Spanish private banking operation “to compete in
terms of resources with the largest players in Europe and the
world”, according to Javier Marin, CEO of Santander Global Private

The new UK business will have a staff of over 1,000, joining the
Santander Global Private Banking team of 2,200 worldwide. It
consists of pensions and asset management business James Hay,
private bank Cater Allen Private Bank and stockbroker Abbey

The UK operation will provide a diverse range of services, allowing
the company to concentrate on providing more comprehensive support
to its key distribution channel – professional intermediaries and
their clients.

Alvaro Morales has been appointed CEO of the new operation. He
joins from Spanish private bank Banif, part of Santander. Richard
Dunn, managing director of Cater Allen, becomes commercial director
responsible for the development of Santander’s network for
independent financial advisers and professional introducers.

Merrill picks new Americas wealth chief

Merrill Lynch has appointed Dan Sontag as the new head of its
Americas wealth management division. He will replace Mac Gardner,
an executive who was close to Stan O’Neal and who himself was
ousted as chief executive of the US brokerage group last month.
Gardner is to leave the firm at the end of January.

Sontag will be responsible for the strategic management of 700 US
and Latin American branch offices and will report to Robert McCann,
president of global wealth management.

A number of other senior management changes are expected as part a
broad restructuring at Merrill, which took an $8.4 billion
writedown on debt related to subprime mortgages for the third
quarter of 2007.

Latin America
Sabadell buys BBVA Latino private banking

The Miami-based Latin American private banking operations of
Spanish group BBVA, with assets under management estimated at about
$700 million, are being bought by fellow Spanish bank Banco
Sabadell for up to $70 million. Sabadell said the transaction would
allow it to develop private and corporate banking in the US and
Latin America, and would bring the total value of funds under
management in Miami to more than $3 billion.

Banco Itaú, a major Brazilian banking group, had also been in the
running to acquire the BBVA operation.

Rabobank bank unit under investigation

An investigation by the Dutch central bank has been launched into
trading and accounting activities on behalf of clients of Schretlen
& Co, the private banking arm of Rabobank.

Rabobank officials denied any wrong-doing, calling the inquiry into
the trading activities of Schretlen employees a routine inquiry
into equity transactions conducted for clients.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf claimed that Schretlen allegedly
passed on unauthorised tax benefits to its clients by altering
transaction dates.

Bidding for Morgan Stanley private banking

BNP Paribas and La Caixa, Spain’s largest savings bank, have been
shortlisted to buy Morgan Stanley’s private banking division in
Spain, according to Madrid reports. The sale of the private bank
may fetch €500 million ($740 million) to €600 million and could be
concluded by the end of January.

HSBC unloads tax advisory unit

HSBC USA has agreed to sell offshoot Wealth and Tax Advisory
Services USA (WTAS) to the participating managing directors in the
unit in a management buy-out worth up to $65.9 million.

WTAS provides tax advisory services to high net worth individuals.
The transaction will enable WTAS to pursue a broader expansion
strategy, HSBC said.

Under the agreement, HSBC has an option to acquire 19.9 percent of
the equity of WTAS, subject to certain conditions and dilution as
new managing directors join WTAS over time.

Chris Meares, HSBC Private Banking CEO, said: “Our focus is on
developing our core private banking activities in both developing
and developed markets using HSBC’s unique distribution

Anglo Irish sells Swiss private banking unit

Anglo Irish Bank is to sell its Swiss private banking subsidiary,
Anglo Irish Bank (Suisse), and an affiliated Portuguese branch, to
St Galler Kantonalbank for an undisclosed sum. The disposal
reflects Anglo Irish’s concentration on its core secured lending
businesses in Ireland, the UK and the US together with its
complementary wealth management and treasury businesses, chief
executive David Drumm said.

Lombard Odier moves into Singapore

Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch (LODH) is to establish a private
banking presence in Singapore, after getting a branch licence from
the country’s regulators in what it called a “major step” in the
Swiss group’s international presence.

The bank will be aimed chiefly at private clients. It will be
headed by Philippe Sidler while Richard Wee, head of private
clients in South East Asia, will manage business development.

LODH will now be able to offer global asset management in the Asia
region as well as gearing its private banking expansion towards
family entrepreneurs, officials said.

Australian wealth soars

The wealth of Australians has soared 21 percent in the past 12
months to reach an average figure of about A$60,000 ($54,000) each,
according to calculations by Sydney brokerage CommSec. This is
attributable to a stronger stock market and increased inflows into
superannuation retirement funds.

Financial assets such as shares and deposits rose by 2.5 percent in
the September quarter to A$2.4 trillion while liabilities were also
at a record A$1.17 trillion. CommSec estimates that in the past
three years the average financial wealth of Australians has risen
70 percent.

Middle East
Sarasin sets up subsidiary in Bahrain

Swiss wealth manager Bank Sarasin is to set up a subsidiary in
Bahrain with joint venture partner Sheikh Mohammed Youssef
El-Khereiji. From 2008, the subsidiary will offer clients a range
of products and services covering private banking for family
offices, entrepreneurs and institutional clients.