Credit Suisse has appointed its first onshore China private bank chief, signalling its foray into the mainland wealth management market. 

Ex-RBS executive Rick Meng has joined as managing director and head of private banking based in Shanghai. He reports to Francois Monnet, head of private banking for Greater China, and David Liu, Shanghai branch manager.

The firm said the appointment was an important step in its strategy to develop onshore wealth management capabilities, which will leverage the investment banking services of its Shanghai branch. 

Partnership approach?

Credit Suisse told AsianInvestor in June that it was looking to enter China through partnerships with local wealth managers, insurers, banks or internet companies, with a digital strategy part of the plan. It is not clear whether it is still seeking such tie-ups.

Other banks also feel building onshore businesses makes sense in Asia. Lombard Odier's Asia-Pacific chief investment officer, Jean-Louis Nakamura, said the traditional approach  offshore private banking using an advisory model  would not last in the region. 

However, new entrants to China face a strong challenge from local players. The big domestic banks have huge distribution networks, and even boutique wealth managers such as Jupai and Noah boasts hundreds of branches. That is one reason why Julius Baer tied up with Jupai, and Lombard Odier, too, feels local partnerships are the right approach in Asia.

Meng is tasked with building Credit Suisse's wealth management team in Shanghai, expanding its onshore client coverage and leveraging the private banking platform in Hong Kong. The bank declined to provide details about plans for building the team, including how many relationship managers would be hired. 

Meng will work with the bank's Greater China investment banking coverage team to identify business opportunities and cater to the investment and corporate needs of ultra-high-net-worth and entrepreneur clients in China, said the memo.

With 17 years' experience in the financial industry across China, Hong Kong and the US, Meng was most recently head of corporate coverage for China and Shanghai branch manager for Royal Bank of Scotland. 

Asia buildout

Credit Suisse has been expanding its private banking business onshore in Asia of late. In May it opened a onshore private banking desk in Thailand amid rising local demand for overseas investments. 

In China, the bank said its move onshore was part of its integrated approach to growing its overall presence there. The new wealth business will make use of its existing joint ventures, ICBC Credit Suisse Asset Management and Credit Suisse Founder Securities. It launched an onshore securities broking business through the latter JV earlier this month.

The population of high-net-worth individuals in China grew 16.2% to reach 1.03 million in 2015, while their wealth increased by 16.9% to $5.3 trillion, according to the latest Capgemini Wealth Report.