Canadian wealth manager BMO Private Bank is seeking to expand its service offering in Asia, primarily Hong Kong and Singapore, and is targeting family offices in particular for growth.

Joanna Rotenberg, Toronto-based head of personal wealth management for BMO Financial Group,  noted the firm already had a strong family office business in the US (where it has 42 offices) and Canada.

"We plan to leverage the different capabilities across the group,” she told AsianInvestor on a flying visit to Hong Kong, noting that it was the family office segment it was focused on above all.

Rotenberg declined to specify how much BMO managed for family offices. At the end of October 2015, assets under management for BMO Wealth Management – which includes the retail segment – globally stood at $615 billion.

BMO Private Bank Asia began building up its business last August with the appointment of Monique Chan as chief executive officer. Chan joined from Edmond de Rothschild, where she was CEO and head of Asia, responsible for private banking and asset management businesses in the region.

Speaking to AsianInvestor, Chan said her strategic target this year was to tackle the ultra-high-net-worth and family office space, which she acknowledges are very different markets. “It requires doing a lot of work and relationship-building with what is often the first generation of family investors," Chan stated.

To provide family clients with the appropriate legal structures, BMO is setting up a trust company in Hong Kong, which Chan expects to be up and running in March. “It’s an important component of the succession planning set-up,” she explained.

The firm has also expanded the number of relationship managers and investment consultants it has in Hong Kong and Singapore. Chan noted the firm had hired 19 client-facing staff in the last six months, including 17 relationship managers, one director on the trust side and one investment counsellor. She added the firm would continue its recruitment drive this year.

On the product side, BMO Private Bank plans to add FX and equity products within the development of what Chan describes as “a full suite of money-management products”.

Last year the bank added global equity and fixed income ETF portfolios managed by BMO Global Asset Management and third-party issuers including Vanguard and State Street.

Myra Cridland, head of private banking for Canada and Asia, sees North America and Asia as complementary. “We are looking to tie the regions together, in that our Chinese clients want to work on business acquisitions in the US and Canada," she said. "In fact, we are already working with families in Hong Kong in this regard.”

BMO Financial Group already has interests in mainland China and branches in Hong Kong and Singapore, along with representative offices in Beijing and Taipei. It also has a 28% stake in Shanghai-based Fullgoal Fund Management and a 19.99% stake in Beijing’s Cofco Trust Company.

Elsewhere in the region, the group intends to develop businesses in Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In December, BMO Global AM unveiled a new Asia chief with the promotion of Ravi Sriskandarajah. This followed the move by Amit Prakash, to a global role within BMO as managing director of global ETFs and alternative investments for the global asset management business.

BMO Private Bank in Asia was created out of the acquisition of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s Asian wealth business in January 2014. In 2014, BMO paid $1.2 billion to acquire the UK firm F&C Asset Management.