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Barclays chews over substantial wealth management acquisition

BARCLAYS is mulling over the acquisition of a substantial wealth management business to boost its global private banking presence, the firm revealed yesterday.<br /><br />Gerard Aquilina, the vice-chairman of the group&rsquo;s private banking arm Barclays Wealth, said the bank would be prepared to stump up for a business at least the size of 120-year-old Swiss firm Julius Baer in a &ldquo;major transformational buy&rdquo;, to achieve its target of ranking in the top five private banks in the world.<br /><br />Speaking at the Reuters Global Wealth Management Summit in Geneva, Aquilina added that Barclays would be highly selective in its choice of acquisition target.<br /><br />&ldquo;Being big for the sake of being big is not necessarily a good philosophy to enhance shareholder value,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Barclays Wealth currently manages &pound;145bn of assets, while JP Morgan &ndash; the world&rsquo;s fifth-largest wealth manager &ndash; has $600bn (&pound;377.2bn) of assets under management.<br /><br />Barclays has taken a major bet on private banking in the hope that synergies with other units such as investment banking will give it a competitive edge in an industry battered by rocky markets.