Euromoney: Global Private Banking Awards 2024

Content first published by Euromoney on 22 March 2024

The world’s best for HNW: DBS

Competition in the high net-worth category is fierce: every private bank targets HNW customers, with the aim of making as many as possible of them long-term customers.

HNWs make up the majority of customers at the medium to higher end of the wealth spectrum. The band ranges from clients with at least $1 million, all the way up to $50 million at some big lenders. Financial providers committed to the cause must be willing to invest in a very broad range of services, while not letting costs – on risk controls, technology, manpower, new services and funds, and expanding branch networks – spiral out of reach.

DBS succeeds in achieving just the right cost-to-service balance in several ways. For one thing, the Singapore lender is increasingly a global player, at least in wealth management under group head of private banking Joseph Poon.

Private wealth is flowing in ever-greater quantities to the Lion City from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, and from Europe and North America.

In all, the bank meets the evolving needs of HNW clients from 115 countries. Some of them have wealth scattered across various jurisdictions; it is DBS’s job to meet their needs and to continuously update families on ever-changing tax and regulatory landscapes, often in multiple languages. This requires constant upskilling by the bank’s army of relationship managers.

The good news here is that while geopolitical tensions rise around the world, so far at least, southeast Asia is a relative oasis of calm. That, the bank says, has “accelerated the shift in the centre of gravity of global wealth toward Asia”. And, in particular, to Singapore.

DBS’s decision to invest more heavily in digital solutions than its peers has paid off handsomely down the years. Its decision to invest big and early is key: it is a better provider of wealth-facing digital services than any other big lender in Asia, and every year, it rolls out a roster of new services tailored to the evolving needs of HNW clients. During the awards period, it unveiled several new trust solutions for cryptocurrencies specifically for them.

DBS is a global leader for HNW clients wherever you look. As of the end of 2023, more than 60% of clients’ investment assets were sustainably rated, putting it two years ahead of schedule. (Its aim was 50%). It managed that by driving client advocacy: producing a series of educational webinars to make it easier for clients to understand the environmental, social and governance characteristics of their portfolios.

In March 2023, the bank announced the first close of its Asia Impact First Fund – the bank committed 50% of the capital – together with Heritas Capital and like-minded Singapore-based parties/clients, including Tsao Family Office and IMC Group.

The judges also applauded DBS’s range of products tailored to the complex needs of HNWs, many of them only unveiled during the awards period.

“The bank offers a vast array of services to comprehensively address the diverse needs of this segment,” they said.


The world’s best for international China clients: DBS

In 2023, Singapore attracted S$12.7 billion ($9.43 billion) in fixed asset investments, amid a challenging global environment, according to data from the country’s economic development board. The previous year it was even higher, at S$22.5 billion.

It is a reminder of the growing relevance and soft-power clout of the Lion City, the financial fulcrum of a region – southeast Asia – that has so far skirted the geopolitical tumult and vicissitudes of so much of the rest of the world.

Singapore’s safety and stability acts as a double magnet, drawing in a lot of corporate and institutional investment, and personal capital. Private wealth is flowing in from all over the world – the Middle East, Europe, south Asia and the rest of Asean.

And, of course, China. Hard data is hard to come by, but private wealth continues to flow out of the People’s Republic. It is not a torrent by any means, but pretty much every China-facing private banker is working to help high and ultra-high net-worth mainland clients allocate private capital to foreign funds, stocks and assets.

DBS is at the heart of this story: carefully helping international China clients to invest in global funds, assets and securities. This isn’t just happening in its home market: the lender helps many of the same clients to manage personal capital across multiple markets, including the Asean region and greater China, encompassing the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These areas fall under the leadership of Carol Shu-Yen Wu, head of private bank in North Asia.

The work it does for clients is valuable and complex. Wealth flows out of China to be put to work in global assets – as you would expect, given the market’s immense wealth, and the desire of wealthy mainland families to diversify their portfolios, travel and buy foreign real estate.

This process works both ways, of course. Plenty of private wealth is also flowing back into China, in part to be put to work in philanthropic endeavours: building schools and hospitals, and supporting charities.

DBS cites a case study to highlight best how the bank serves the multi-jurisdictional needs of HNW clients. The central character is an entrepreneur with more than $700 million in financial assets, who runs a business making high-end personal mobility components.

Though she had banked over the years with various Taiwan, European and North American lenders, none of them was ideally placed to provide her with the seamless wealth-management and planning services she required.

Enter DBS. When first introduced to the bank in Singapore, she was just looking for a place to park a small sum of money. But headwinds in China – rising costs, tightening labour regulations and geopolitical tensions – pushed her to relocate her factories to other markets, notably Vietnam.

Over time, she put more of her capital to work with Asia’s best private bank. In recent years, DBS has arranged commercial bank loans in New Taiwan dollars, and its relationship managers have helped her to understand the regulatory landscape in the markets in which she operates. She is currently setting up a single-family office with the bank.


Asia’s best regional private bank: DBS

In a year that has seen Asia's financial institutions face mounting pressures from geopolitical headwinds, DBS retains its mantle as Asia’s best private bank 2024. This award comes in tandem with two other regional honours: best for family office services and best for high net-worth (HNW) individuals. Its managing director and group head is Joseph Poon.

Navigating through market volatility, DBS's total income from wealth management in 2023 soared by nearly 30%, building on the 20% growth it achieved in 2022.

The inflow of net new money continued its upward trajectory, extending the record-setting pace with a compound annual growth rate of 57% from 2019 to 2022. This growth is partly fuelled by clients reallocating wealth from mainland China and Hong Kong to Singapore.

The surge underscores the bank's position as a powerhouse in regional private banking, with international clients representing 76% of that growth over the past two years.

At the heart of DBS's success is its integrated One Bank strategy that unites commercial, institutional, and investment banking. It is an approach that has been particularly beneficial for the two-thirds of clients who are entrepreneurs, allowing them to leverage DBS’s network for both their business and personal wealth growth.

DBS’s harmonized approach is built on its commercial banking franchise, a strong balance sheet and stringent risk controls. The private bank addresses the complex interplay between commercial and personal finance, including driving cross-investments in sectors such as aviation and airport services, as well as supporting diversification into manufacturing for high-profile entrepreneurs.

DBS’s technological investments have transformed client engagement, with the DBS app becoming the go-to for nine out of 10 wealth clients. The bank’s deployment of AI and data analytics has sparked a 30% jump in wealth-planning solutions adoption.

The wealth-management proposition has been enhanced by the revamped CIO Liquid+ Fund, optimizing yield, safety and liquidity, and by the DBS Idea Fund, capitalizing on tech and digitalization trends. The CIO strategies, such as the 60/40 stocks-to-bonds portfolio and a bullish view on US big tech, have translated into tangible gains for clients.

Sustainability is a cornerstone of DBS's investment philosophy. Over 60% of the bank's investment portfolio comprises sustainable investments, exceeding its target two years ahead of schedule.

Through a strategic alliance with Temasek and BlackRock, DBS is the exclusive distributor in Asia for the Decarbonization Private Equity Fund, aiming to raise $1 billion.


Asia’s best for family-office services: DBS

With Singapore's ascent to a prominent hub for family offices in Asia, DBS has made quick work of establishing itself as a leading player in the region.

DBS today banks one in three family offices in the city-state, with assets under management doubling over the past two years. This boost, partly a windfall from the substantial global capital retreat from China, has also been driven by a diversified client base from Europe, the US and the Middle East. This has contributed to a 42% year-on-year increase in family-office account openings and a 27% rise in AuM despite a tepid global economic climate.

The bank is committed to innovation, continually adapting to meet the ever-changing needs of its clients. Through the DBS Foundry platform – an initiative launched last year to drive innovation in services and products – DBS has capitalized on Singapore’s Variable Capital Company (VCC) legal structure to launch the first-ever multi-family office VCC. This isn't just about tax benefits, it is part of DBS's broader strategy of delivering services that transcend private banking.

The goal is to fulfil all the financial needs of business-owning families, as the VCC can also be leveraged for a corporate’s investment and treasury activities.

The bank explains: “A meaningful discussion with clients cannot happen in isolation from their private-banking assets. Our proposition today is always about an inclusive and integrated discussion, touching on the client's private-banking needs, corporate needs, and even treasury needs.”

DBS banks one in three family offices in Singapore, with assets under management doubling over the past two years

DBS's approach to family-office services underscores a broader industry trend: the shift towards providing comprehensive, integrated solutions that encompass not only wealth management but also corporate finance, succession planning and other corporate banking disciplines.

This shift indicates a maturing market where family offices are not isolated entities but part of a larger business ecosystem.

In contrast to the downsizing trend observed among financial institutions in Asia, DBS continues to add expertise to its private-banking team. It expanded its advisory team by 5% in 2022 alone. The bank has also devoted more than 5,000 hours to training programmes to meet the complex needs of clients.


Asia’s best for HNW: DBS

This year, DBS has been named Asia’s best private bank for high-net-worth individuals, a testament to its innovative approach in this competitive wealth-management sector.

At a time when the race to attract HNW individuals intensifies, DBS sets itself apart with a distinctive product offering that caters to the growing interest of Asia's wealthy in digital assets.

It has launched trust solutions for cryptocurrencies, merging the security and succession planning of traditional wealth management with the dynamic landscape of digital assets.

Building upon DBS Trustee's experience with conventional assets, this foray into digital assets positions DBS as a trailblazer in Asia's financial sector.

In 2022, DBS reported an 80% increase in the volume of bitcoin traded on its DBS Digital Exchange. Capitalizing on this momentum, the bank expanded its services to include digital asset custody, which resulted in a doubling of the number of bitcoins under custody.

The bank's offerings in legacy insurance have also seen considerable growth, with HNW legacy insurance revenues climbing by 20% year on year, and projections indicating a record high by the end of 2023.

DBS has embraced impact investments to cater to HNWIs looking to make a lasting social impact. In 2023, the bank announced a $20 million initial closing of the Asia Impact First Fund, with a $10 million commitment from DBS itself. The fund is dedicated to supporting high-potential social enterprises across Asia, allowing UHNWIs to extend their philanthropic reach beyond traditional charity, by funding and mentoring social entrepreneurs.

The bank's future leaders programme integrates the next generation into its sustainable vision, uniting 28 young people in a three-day event that emphasizes sustainability, impact investing and innovation. The programme culminates in a spirited 'Shark Tank'-style session, presenting business ideas to seasoned social entrepreneurs.

DBS’s HNW proposition is bolstered by the chief investment office's proven expertise and strategic investment approach. This has been exemplified by strong returns from offerings like the DBS Idea Fund, which capitalizes on secular tech trends. It had a 14% return as of September 2023.

DBS also revamped its CIO Liquid+ Fund, optimizing yield, safety and liquidity amid the search for safe-haven assets.


Hong Kong’s best international private bank: DBS

DBS wins this award for best international private bank in Hong Kong in recognition of the quality and breadth of its services and its distinctive regional expertise.

Its One-Bank model – enabling clients with access to the full range of the bank’s expertise across markets, businesses and geographies – is an important piece in its private banking proposition in Hong Kong as elsewhere, helping to differentiate its offering from rivals.

It also helps the bank deepen its relationship with clients and create synergies across its business units, which in turn drives business growth. At the end of 2022, for example, around 150 of its corporate banking clients had started to use private banking services, while almost 550 private banking clients had established corporate banking relationships.

DBS’s focus on Asia also plays into its strength in Hong Kong. The bank combines a deep understanding of regional business dynamics, regulations and cultural nuances with extensive Asian insights and networks, enabling it to structure locally and regionally relevant wealth management solutions.

These factors helped the bank attract new clients last year, especially from north Asia. In the year to the end of September, DBS’s family office client base increased 36% to 470, with assets under management hitting $7 billion and trust injections exceeding $1 billion.


Hong Kong’s best for digital solutions: DBS

DBS wins this award for the strength and sophistication of its digital solutions.

At the core of the this is the bank’s artificial intelligence-powered digibank platform. This gives clients substantial control over their wealth portfolios, providing them with access to personalized insights and recommendations, a comprehensive suite of wealth management tools and access to markets for funds, foreign exchange, digital assets and other investments.

The bank’s relationship managers and independent consultants are supported by the RM Mobility capability, which helps them construct, review and rebalance client portfolios. As well as access to client data, they have access to proprietary research and advanced solutions, including a cognitive banking functionality that sends alerts based on key actions and customer proposals.

The bank has also digitalized everything from the account opening process to investment order placements, helping relationship mangers serve client needs efficiently. Some recent advances include a new portfolio simulation tool and upgrades to its interactive research platform, DBS Insights Direct.

Supporting this innovation is the fact that 90% of the bank’s apps operate in the cloud, enabling it to launch products 20 to 30 times faster than before.


Singapore’s best domestic private bank: DBS

DBS wins the award for Singapore’s best domestic private bank for the second consecutive year in recognition of its regional expertise, as well as the strength and sophistication of its wealth management offering.

This overall strength was shown in many areas, especially family office services and succession planning, where the bank also wins awards this year.

DBS leverages its One-Bank model, allowing clients to draw on its capabilities across capital markets, institutional banking, treasury and markets, and asset management. This collaborative power can lead to innovative solutions to complex client needs. One such was the structuring of trustee and custody solutions for clients keen to trade digital assets on the DBS Digital Exchange.

Other stand out initiatives for the bank in the past year came in sustainability and investment.

In March, DBS announced the first close of the Asia Impact First Fund, which it launched with Heritas Capital to help scale up innovative social enterprises across Asia. As anchor investor, DBS committed 50% of the initial fund raise, alongside other impact-focused parties and clients, including the Tsao Family Office, IMC Group and the Ishk Tolaram Foundation.

During the broad market volatility of last year, the bank’s chief investment office and discretionary team responded by relaunching the CIO Liquid+ Fund, providing clients with a diversified, high-quality and liquid investment portfolio as a safeguard from the turbulence.


Singapore’s best for succession planning: DBS

DBS wins the award for its expertise in succession planning.

In advising clients on safeguarding legacies and future changes, the bank can draw on expertise from across the group to deliver the best wealth management and corporate finance solutions to clients.

One area of distinction is DBS’s ability to incorporate digital assets into succession plans. The bank’s trustee subsidiary has been able to capture client demand for this through a pioneering trust solution, enabling private clients to invest, custody and manage their digital assets in a secure way with the backing of a highly regulated institution.

Advising the next generation is another important area of succession planning that DBS is heavily invested in. Its Future Leaders Programme last year, for example, served as a platform for aspiring young leaders to explore trends and connect with their peers.

Some 28 participants from southeast Asia, north Asia and Europe took part in the three-day programme entitled, Preserving Legacy, Challenging Convention.


Singapore’s best for family-office services: DBS

DBS wins the award for its strength and innovative leadership in serving family office clients in Singapore.

The bank provides families with a full range of services, expertise and capabilities, a strength which has helped it onboard over a third of all the 700 single family offices set up in Singapore.

Much of this inbound demand has come from families from north Asia, Europe, the US and the Middle East, business which has more than doubled the bank’s family office assets under management in the past couple of years. This business also led to new asset injections last year of over S$1 billion ($750 million) from trust structures established with DBS Trustee Limited.

Expanding its capabilities and demonstrating its innovation, DBS last year became the first private bank to launch a multi-family office structuring proposition to leverage Singapore’s Variable Capital Company (VCC) regime. VCCs are a new legal entity structure for all types of investment funds in Singapore. They can be formed as a single standalone fund or as an umbrella fund with two or more sub-funds, each holding different assets.

The exotically titled DBS Multi Family Office Foundry VCC has been established as an umbrella VCC with multiple underlying sub-funds.

At its simplest, it offers affluent families an alternative option to manage their wealth in Singapore, without having to establish their own single family office. Through DBS MFOF, clients are able to access a full suite of investment services – such as investment management, trade execution and custody – via a single integrated platform.


Taiwan’s best international private bank: DBS

DBS wins the award for Taiwan’s best international private bank in recognition of the quality of its services and its leading market position in the country.

This was evident across many of the key areas that comprise the bank’s private banking and wealth management offering in Taiwan, particularly in sustainability, for which it also won an award this year.

Critical to DBS’ leadership as a foreign bank was the integration of Citi’s Taiwan consumer banking business last year, a transformational deal that more than doubled DBS’s local customers to over 1.1 million and tripled assets under management to over S$12 billion.

Besides the bank’s size, the quality of the services and advice DBS provides wealthy clients is another differentiator for it in Taiwan. Some standout developments during the awards period included the launch of a 24/7 FX leave order function – a request to buy or sell a currency pair at a specific price – and equity and exchange-traded fund trading capabilities on its online and mobile platforms.

Responding to client needs, the bank also made a series of enhancements to its investment research, which included launching a quarterly asset allocation advice paper and a weekly investment guide.


Taiwan’s best for sustainability: DBS

For its impressive commitment to this issue in the country, DBS wins the award forTaiwan’s best for sustainability.

The bank’s commitment is demonstrated in Taiwan, and throughout Asia, in several key areas, not least in the green, sustainable and sustainability-linked financing, structures and markets that the bank has helped pioneer in recent years. At the other end of the spectrum, the bank also takes seriously the material used in its consumer banking products – it launched Asia’s first credit card made from biodegradable plastic.

In addition, the bank has demonstrated its willingness to invest in and support the sustainable transition. Last year, for example, DBS announced a three-year investment plan worth NT$20 million ($640,000) for Dagangqian Park, a technology hub in Taipei’s Neihu District, to promote diverse sustainable practices.

This was the latest of a series of efforts the bank has made to support the sustainability agenda and society in Taiwan. These have included backing social enterprises, non-profit organizations, sustainability-focused small and medium-sized enterprises, and the Zero Food Waste initiative.

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