Maybank Private Wealth is in expansion mode and looking to hire across Asia as it develops its new high-net-worth business, its head of private wealth told AsianInvestor.

The unit of Malaysia’s largest bank plans to open a desk in London, expand its Singapore proposition and hire dozens of relationship managers as part of its bid to grab a slice of the Asia HNW market.

After only opening for business 18 months ago, the private banking unit is also investing in technology platforms as part of its regional build-out.

Alvin Lee, group head of private wealth for Maybank, said that its planned initiatives were part of developing its regional private banking proposition.

It recently forayed into North Asia with the hiring in May of Michelle Chai as head of Greater China. Based in Hong Kong, Chai was recruited from Haitong Securities where she was a director for client advisory. Lee said more hires will be made in order to grow the Greater China business.

Outside of Asia, Maybank PW is opening a desk in London to mainly serve the investment needs of wealthy Singaporeans and Malaysians, who have a propensity for buying UK property. The private banking desk will be opened later this year.

In Singapore, Maybank PW will be introducing a discretionary portfolio management service in the coming weeks, headed by Ang Mui Koon, who was hired from Standard Chartered last year. This will be on top of the advisory services which it currently provides in an open architecture format.

It is also looking to enhance its product and investment solutions and is investing in technology platforms. It presently provides about 80% of what international private banks offer but it aims to move up to 90-95%.

Maybank PW is aggressively hiring relationship managers across its Asia offices to add to the 40 it already has. “We believe the sweet spot is 60-80 relationship managers,” said Lee, who did not specify a timeline.

Despite it youth, Maybank PW has done a decent job, claimed Lee. “For our first full year we generated a decent return of 10% for clients, and added new assets under management of S$2 billion,” said Lee. The private bank has a total of S$6 billion ($4.4 billion) in AUM.

Maybank PW’s core focus is the Asean market, which is opening up and has a growing wealthy population. And with the number of Asean members integrating beyond banking through the Asean Economic Community initiative, Maybank PW sees this as its sweet spot. “We want to play at the right market and don’t want to play too wide,” Lee said of its strategy.

Maybank has always served the mass affluent segment - those with at least $250,000 investable assets. But as Asia’s wealthy has grown in number, and to cater to the personal wealth needs of its corporate clientele, Maybank was driven to create the subsidiary to offer private banking to clients with $1 million investible assets.

The private banking business is attached to Maybank consumer banking and does not operate as a stand-alone entity. It chose Singapore, where it has a longstanding consumer banking operation, as its hub for the region. Maybank also has booking centres in Malaysia and Hong Kong.