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Citibank targets high rollers in Taiwan expansion plans

Island\'s wealthy class eyed by one of world\'s largest private banks

Citibank targets high rollers in Taiwan expansion plans

Targeting Taiwan's tony and moneyed set, The Citigroup Private Bank yesterday said it will be expanding its Taiwan operations and grow organically to meet the demands of its loaded clients.

The bank, one of the largest private banking businesses in the world, is primarily looking at individuals whose overall assets are worth at least US$10 million or approximately NT$340 million, said Sam Suen, The Citigroup Private Bank's Global Market Manager for Taiwan.

"Taiwan is one of the largest wealth management markets in Asia," Suen told a media briefing yesterday.

"Its high net worth population is expanding in tandem, (and those individuals are) demanding a more sophisticated range of financial instruments to help them meet their wealth management needs and goals."

Suen and company are counting on Citigroup's rapidly expanding Taiwan team, its international network, and other businesses such as Corporate and Investment Bank, Citigroup Capital Markets, and the Global Consumer Group to convince Taiwan's seriously rich to bank with them.

Taiwan, it seems, is chock full of millionaires. Industry estimates showed that there were nearly 200,000 affluent individuals with a minimum of US$300,000 in investible assets in Taiwan in 2003. Together, they represented more than US$160 billion in onshore assets under management.

That number is expected to grow to 330,000 individuals in 2008 with US$300 billion in combined assets, making Taiwan the second largest high net worth individuals growth market just behind China, said the bank.

"Less than two years ago, we were half the size we are today, and we expect to invest more in Taiwan in terms of talent and resources, as the market expands," Suen said.

In the world of private banking, personalized and first class service is a must. It is not just product availability, but the quality of advice, research and service that matters, he said.

"Our client-banker ratio is relatively small compared to other providers. A banker serves 20 to 30 clients at most, and often much fewer. This enables us to deliver 'true' private banking, where there is a high degree of customer contact and customization in our advice and solutions," said Suen.

In the region, Citigroup's assets under management per banker is more than US$250 million on average. The bank counts among its clients a quarter of the Forbes list of billionaires, including half of Asia's billionaires, Suen said.

"Our immediate focus is to convey to Taiwan's high net worth individuals and families the importance of wealth management. Our existing clients understand it, but more needs to be done to engage other high net worth Taiwanese that private banking is a holistic financial service," said Victor Chao, director and chief officer of Citigroup Private Bank's Taipei Office.

The Citigroup team is confident its product and service portfolio will meet the requirements of its Taiwan customers, Chao continued.

"Being part of a global organization with touch points across more than 100 countries in the world, we have the experience to create innovative solutions domestically in Taiwan, thus satisfying the ever more sophisticated wealth management needs of its high net worth population," he said.

"Our business is an investment into Taiwan and the continued promise it offers. Our strategy is to build world-class products and services within the country to satisfy the needs of the high net worth families. This complements regulatory efforts to widen both local and foreign-currency investment opportunities in the country's financial services sector."

Currently, the Citigroup Private Bank in Taiwan is able to offer a wide range of products upon which wealth management plans are developed for its high net worth clients including deposit-linked or investment-linked structured products with equity, fixed income, foreign exchange, and commodity underlying; foreign exchange; investment finance such as lending services; and banking, he said.

The bank also acknowledges that the rich are different. Majority of Citigroup Private Bank's clients are business owners and entrepreneurs.

"They demand ideas and solutions that are customized to their requirements, and cover both their wealth preservation and growth needs," said Suen.

"Also, their goals are not just to manage wealth for the present generation of the family, but also for future generations. It's all about building a wealth legacy to protect the generations to come, and not just a single lifespan."