Bank Sarasin has launched a presence in India and is expected to open its offices in Mumbai and Delhi on July 1. The private bank has incorporated itself in that market as Sarasin-Alpen (India) Private Limited.

The new operation will provide financial advisory and consultancy services to wealthy private clients in India and distribute select third-party products such as mutual funds. Various agreements have been established with organisations in India to enable the company to distribute funds and provide portfolio management services.

Sarasin considers India a potential major contributor to its growth in Asia.

"This is a good time to launch our operations in India," says Fidelis Goetz, head of private banking at Bank Sarasin in Switzerland. "The Indian markets have shown early signs of recovery and India will become one of the world's economic engines of growth. It is a very important market for us and we have strengthened our presence in India through this launch."

India has been a magnet for private banks due to its increasing population of affluent individuals.

According to the third Asia-Pacific Wealth Report, which was derived from an annual world report released by Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Capgemini, Asia was home to five of the world's 10 fastest-growing markets by high-net-worth individual (HNWI) population in 2007. The latest report is due out soon.

India topped the list as the world's fastest-growing HNWI market with a 22.7 % gain to 123,000 in 2007, followed by China (+20.3% at 415,000), Korea (+18.9% at 118,000), Indonesia (+16.8% at 23,000) and Singapore (+15.3% at 77,000). Merrill Lynch expects these five markets in Asia to continue to dominate the region in terms of the HNWI population over the next five years. Merrill Lynch defines HNWIs as those with net assets of at least $1 million (excluding primary residences and consumables) and ultra HNWIs as those with net assets of at least $30 million.

The Sarasin Group's majority shareholder is the AAA-rated Dutch Rabobank which measured by its core capital, is one of the world's top 20 financial institutions. With a 168-year history, the Sarasin Group has its roots as a boutique Swiss private bank.

The launch of the operations in India and the opening of the new offices in Mumbai and Delhi mark the next stage of the Sarasin Group's international growth strategy.

Sarasin Group's regional team in Asia, Sarasin Rabo Investment Management, is headquartered in Singapore with a marketing base in Hong Kong.