Fiduciary services firm Vistra has acquired the trust unit of BSI Bank in Singapore, saying it sees the provision of trust services as a trend that is growing in the city-state.
The purchase, approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, will see all services and business of BSI Trust Corporation Singapore transferred to Vistra by today (January 31). Financial details were not disclosed.
The decision to sell the trust unit was taken by BSI Bank itself, not by its Italian insurance parent Generali. As such, BSI says the transaction is not connected to its own much-talked-of sale.
A team of three has been transferred to Vistra from BSI Trust Corp. The team was six-strong and being led on an interim basis by Francesco Ceruti, but two are not joining and Ceruti will revert to head of trust and corporate affairs for BSI Group.
Vistra is now one of a stable of third parties that BSI can refer its clients to, given that it operates from an open-architecture perspective.
Established in 2006, Vistra provides trust, fiduciary, corporate and fund services to corporations, institutional investors and high-net-worth individuals. It has over 350 staff in 27 offices covering 20 jurisdictions.
It set up its Singapore entity in 2010, and the following year finalised a transaction to merge with Offshore Incorporations Limited (OIL) group.
It provides fund admin to asset managers, chiefly out of Hong Kong (as well as Luxembourg and Jersey), but this is a minor part of its business.
Jean-Pierre Koolmees, managing director of Vistra Singapore, says talks with BSI started last March and that, while there were other bidders, a deal was struck quickly.
Thereafter it was about completing regulatory approvals. “We knew that BSI was on the lookout for a fit and proper company to acquire its trust business,” he tells AsianInvestor.
On the rationale for the deal, he adds: “This is an industry that is becoming more complex, and the requirements from regulators are becoming more cumbersome, so you have to invest.”
Koolmees says Vistra has always adopted an aggressive buy-and-build approach. “We’re following the requirements of our clients and are constantly looking at opportunities,” he notes.
Post-acquisition Vistra will have a trust team of 11, with the provision of trust services making up around a third of its business in Singapore.
Swiss bank BSI, which specialises in private wealth management, has been wholly owned by Generali since 1998.
BSI embarked on a big build-out in Asia, recruiting Hanspeter Brunner from RBS Coutts as regional CEO in March 2010. It now has over 300 staff across Singapore and Hong Kong, from just 30 in 2009.
However, Generali CEO Mario Greco is striving to bolster a capital base weakened by the sovereign debt crisis and is seeking a buyer for BSI.
Buyout firm Apax Partners and RBC Wealth Management have both been mentioned in media dispatches as interested parties. Both declined to comment to AsianInvestor on these rumours.
BSI Group had SFr81.5 billion in assets under management globally as at the end of June last year. It does not break out its Asia numbers.