DBS Private Bank's new head explains China focus

Tan Su-Shan says the Singaporean firm is well positioned to benefit from the easing renminbi rules in Hong Kong and plans to launch another specialist China fund this year.
DBS Private Bank's new head explains China focus

DBS Asset Management is not the only part of Singapore's DBS Group that is looking to make more of its franchise in the region. The private-banking arm recently hired a respected executive from Morgan Stanley in the form of Tan Su-Shan, although it has not been immune to the regional poaching spree in the wealth management sector.

Tan has been in her role for three months and is placing a strong focus on China. Since she started, DBS Private Bank has added its first chief investment officer, Lim Say-Boon, and first chief operating officer, Olivier Crespin, along with various product specialists.

Crespin is updating some of the systems and processes at the bank – it has already rolled out a new platform in Hong Kong and will soon do the same in Singapore. The IT platform is called Avaloq Banking System and provides front-to-back-office functionality for clients. It covers all investment-, cash- and credit-related products and processing functions.

Asked about the importance of the onshore markets in Asia, particularly those in China and India, Tan notes that DBS can now offer renminbi deposits and RMB-denominated bonds to corporate clients in Hong Kong following the recent relaxation of rules there.

The new rules, which include the lifting of restrictions on interbank transfers of RMB funds and allow corporate clients to buy RMB in Hong Kong without a cap, were announced in July.

DBS has a full banking licence in Hong Kong, a qualified foreign institutional investor licence in China and is one of the first foreign banks to have been granted a full RMB licence in China.

Meanwhile, Tan points to the fact that the private bank can call upon other expertise in the DBS group, on the research and trading side from DBS Vickers Securities and on the funds side from DBS Asset Management. (However, the latter looks set to be sold or merged with another firm, most likely Nikko Asset Management, as reported by AsianInvestor.)

She points to Asia-specific funds offered by DBS AM that invest in the local A-share market, such as the China Rail Network Opportunities Fund, which was launched in April by DBS Private Bank, DBS AM and Changseng.

Following this launch, the three firms plan to launch another product in November, says Tan. It will focus on the theme that – partly due to China's one-child policy that was introduced in 1979 and the move from rural areas to cities – wages will start rising significantly, which will lead to a domestic consumption boom.

Meanwhile, Tan stresses that DBS is an Asian private bank first and foremost. “Our portfolios have a clear Asian bias; they are local to the region – that's a differentiator,” she says. “Of course we will cater to European or other non-Asian clients who want Asian exposure, but we're not a global bank and we don't aim to be. Being strong in our own backyard is our plan.”

Another advantage of DBS as a group is its strength in corporate and investment banking, says Tan. The firm has a full pipeline of Asian deals in the equity and debt capital markets, the full strength of which she admits was a pleasant surprise to her when she arrived.

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