The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has hired Barend Janssens to be head of wealth management for emerging markets as the latest step in its international expansion drive.

Separately, RBS Coutts, the international private banking arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland, has named Santosh Keni as head of non-resident Indian (NRI) and South Asia business in the Middle East as it sets out to double the size of its business in the region.

Janssens, who was CEO of Asia private banking at ABN Amro for five years before leaving in 2009, will be responsible for growing RBC’s client-facing teams in Asia, Latin America and Europe, Middle East and Africa. He is based in Singapore.

RBC has set its sights on becoming “the leading global player in wealth and asset management”, and Janssens describes the firm's wealth management business as having momentum globally. “RBC has set some big challenges for itself internationally,” he notes.

RBC has spoken previously about its expansion plans, appointing Matthew Yong as president and Frank Mu as CEO of its Asian operations in 2009.

In September last year, RBC Wealth Management announced an organisational change to accelerate the growth of its international business, with a focus on serving emerging markets.

A spokesman for the firm says Janssens’ appointment “marks a significant step forward in RBC Wealth Management meeting its aggressive growth targets in some of the fastest-growing markets of the world”.

The firm lists its priorities for 2011 as gaining market share and building more corporate relationships in Asia.

RBC’s main Asia hubs are in Hong Kong and Singapore, while RBC Wealth Management also has a branch in Brunei and a representative office in Beijing.

RBC Wealth Management employs some 70 people in Singapore, 100 in Hong Kong and three each in Brunei and Beijing. It offers client advisory and discretionary wealth management, structured solutions and tax advice.

It services more than 1,000 high-net-worth families in the region, while its client base in Asia is approximately 83% high-net-worth individuals, 12% corporate and 5% institutions.

Meanwhile for RBS Coutts, Keni will be based in Dubai, where he will drive the growth of the bank’s NRI and South Asia business in the Middle East.

He rejoins the firm from Barclays Wealth where he was head of the NRI business in the UAE. Between 2003 and 2008 Keni was part of the investment advisory team at RBS Coutts in Singapore, and later led the Middle East NRI initiative for the bank.

“We see huge opportunities in the Middle East for expanding our wealth management business, underpinned by the strong economies and the natural resources wealth,” says James Fleming, global head for the Middle East at RBS Coutts.

“Over the next few years we aim to double our business and will invest significantly in our people resources and market reach in the region.”