Barclays gets OK to buy into New China
HSBC opening in
Amex sues Credit Suisse over

EFG continues growth…
strengthens its presence in Spain…


Barclays gets OK to buy into New China

Barclays has received preliminary approval from the China Banking
Regulatory Commission for its plan to buy into New China Trust Co
Ltd, one of China’s oldest trust companies.

Barclays, which will use the agreement to help it tap into the
country’s fast-growing wealth management industry, becomes the
first foreign bank to get a shareholding in a Chinese trust

Barclays is allowed to buy a 19.99 percent stake in New China Trust
but will take the option to hike its stake if China removes a rule
that bars foreign investors from buying more than a 20 percent
stake in its trust companies.

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Barclays will be able launch wealth management services and
financial derivative products in China through New China Trust’s
licenses and network. New China Trust manages more than $925
million worth of assets.


HSBC opening in Moscow

HSBC is to open a representative office in Moscow later this year
in order to start offering wealth management services to private
clients. Natalya Solodovnikova, who used to work for Deutsche
Bank’s Zurich private banking office, will head the new

The initiative is expected to involve HSBC Premier, the group’s
global banking and wealth management service for affluent
customers. Premier will help provide the banking infrastructure and
core client base on which to develop a more sophisticated onshore
service for rich clients.

At the same time, Fleming Family & Partners (FF&P), one of
the UK’s biggest multi-family offices is to establish a
Russian-based asset management in late summer. Andrei Uspensky, the
current head of PIO Asset Management, will head the new firm, which
will provide asset and wealth management services in Russia and the

FF&P currently has a Moscow office headed by Denis Sukhanov and
which concentrates on real estate management and the provision of
financial advice to corporate and personal clients.

The firm currently has offices in London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Vaduz
and Zurich and provides a range of investment, corporate finance
and wealth management services.


Amex sues Credit Suisse over hirings

American Express Bank is suing Credit Suisse (CS) for trade-secret
theft it alleges affected a quarter of its private banking business
in Chile.

Amex discovered last year that the computer system in its Chile
office contained a presentation laying out a plan for employees
allegedly to move to CS, according to an Amex complaint filed in
federal court in Miami.

In April, several former Amex employees in Chile opened a new
office and fielded requests from the bank’s customers to close
accounts and transfer assets to CS. Amex claims it lost $127
million in assets transferred through the new business begun by
former employees.

Amex asked the court to order CS to stop using its proprietary
information, and to stop soliciting its Chilean customers.


EFG continues growth

EFG International, the Swiss-based private bank, is continuing its
expansion. It is establishing a presence in French offshore wealth
management market, with the acquisition Paris-based Sycomore
Gestion Privée (SGP), from Sycomore Asset Management and senior
management for an undisclosed sum.

SGP provides discretionary investment management for rich
individuals. It was founded in 2004 by Fabrice Moulle-Berteaux and
Antoine Lacourt, who previously worked for JPMorgan in France.
Currently the firm has five employees, including four client
relationship officers and €500 million of client assets under

“A stated objective was to enter the French market, as part of our
wider interest in European onshore opportunities,” said EFG
International chief executive Lonnie Howell. “SGP therefore
represents an important addition to our global family of private
banking businesses.”

EFG is meanwhile opening in Thailand and the Philippines. EFG
Investment Advisory (Thailand) has 10 employees and will
concentrate on onshore activities in Thailand while a
representative office has been established in Manila.


Rothschild strengthens its presence in Spain

Rothschild Private Banking and Trust is strengthening its presence
in Spain with the appointment of a new team of private bankers from
rival banks. Five senior private bankers have been appointed,
recruited from Popular Banca Privada and BNP Paribas.

The team will be led by Antonio Rizo Ordoñez, who will be the new
managing director for Rothschild’s Madrid office. He joins
Rothschild from Popular Banca Privada, where he was a member of the
executive board.


VP Bank targets Asian growth

Liechtenstein private bank VP Bank plans to more than double the
size of its private banking team in Singapore to 26 from the
current 12 in the next year after getting the official green light
for its banking license in the city. It believes it can generate
CHF3 billion ($2.9 billion) of net new funds from wealthy clients
in 2008 via the Singapore presence.

The bank plans to target a very high-end group of family businesses
and entrepreneurs in Asia with more than $30 million worth of
assets, Patrick Wild, the head of VP’s private bank in Asia and
Middle East, said.

“This license represents a key element of the VP Bank Group’s
strategy,” VP said in a statement. “We want to offer our clients
throughout the world the opportunity to have their assets booked
and administered locally. The bank in Singapore optimally
supplements our present banking locations in Liechtenstein,
Switzerland, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands, and in Asia
it is our third foothold together with the representative office
and asset management company in Hong Kong.”


Vontobel independent wealth arm

Swiss private and investment bank Vontobel Group has set up VT
Wealth Management, an independent wealth manager created as part of
an initiative to strengthen its links with external asset

The new unit, to be headed by chief executive Thomas Fedier, will
offer asset management and advisory services to Swiss and foreign
private clients and family offices. Vontobel will hold 51 percent
of the company, and management the remainder.

“VT Wealth Management will work together with proven external
partners to offer its clients holistic solutions for long-term
asset growth, with relationship managers using their
entrepreneurial freedom when selecting products and services to
benefit clients,” said Fedier, who was formerly with Julius

At the same time, Vontobel has agreed with a Chilean brokerage,
Vantrust Capital to develop a private bank locally. According to
local reports, Vantrust Capital’s rich clients will be able to get
access to Vontobel’s products and services. Vantrust was launched
two years ago and last year began offering portfolio management