Barclays sets up new office in Hong Kong

Marion Dakers
BARCLAYS Wealth has set up a booking centre in Hong Kong, the firm announced yesterday, as part of its plans to quadruple assets under management and double its number of private bankers in Asia over the next four years.

An undisclosed number of UK staff will temporarily relocate to help set up the booking centre, a source close to the bank said yesterday.

The facility allows private banking customers in Asia to retain assets in Hong Kong, rather than using the bank’s existing booking centre in Singapore. The company refused to reveal the value of the assets it manages in the region, but said around two-thirds of its £153.5bn asset pile is held outside the UK.

Barclays Wealth North Asia head Joanna Chu said: “This is an important milestone for us in Hong Kong... Our North Asian clients now have the additional option of having their assets managed in a location closer to them.”

It is part of Barclays’ attempt to expand aggressively in the Asia Pacific region. The bank is thought to have around 100 wealth managers in Asia, with plans to triple this number within five years. Barclays Wealth also signed up to a Japanese joint private banking venture in June.

One analyst who did not wish to be named yesterday said the bank might be over-ambitious with its expansion goals.

“Their target to quadruple assets under management in Asia really depends a lot on market conditions improving. Without a global recovery they won’t come close,” the analyst said. “It also depends on the base level of assets under management, which the company has not mentioned.”

People familiar with the firm said Barclays continued to look at relocating its base outside of the UK, but stressed that no decision has yet been made and that the new office in Hong Kong is not part of a general move abroad.

City A.M. revealed exclusively last month that senior executives at Barclays Bank are weighing up the cost of moving the group’s headquarters overseas.