April 23, 2012 / 11:44 AM / in 5 years

RBC to double Mideast wealth management team: exec

DUBAI (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) expects to double the number of wealth management employees in its Dubai office in the near future, and is open to opportunities for acquisitions, a senior executive said on Sunday.

Toronto-based RBC has set its sights on global wealth management as a key driver for growth, targeting organic growth in the United States, Britain, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America as well as small or medium-sized acquisitions to build its global wealth, private banking and trust business.

“We currently have 15 people in our Dubai office and will expect to double that in the next two to three years,” Barend Janssens, head of the bank’s wealth management in emerging markets told reporters in Dubai.

The world’s sixth-largest wealth manager wants to more than double its adviser headcount in emerging markets to at least 220 by 2015 as it seeks to expand its business there from C$20 billion ($20 billion) to C$50 billion, it said last month.

RBC, Canada’s largest retail bank and the one most focused on wealth management, has been relatively unscathed by the global financial crisis and has successfully lured away top talents from crisis-hit U.S. and European institutions scaling down operations.

The bank also agreed to buy some overseas divisions of the Coutts private banking business from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) last month.

“We are seeing acquisition opportunities across the board now. For the first time, you are seeing examples of big banks retrenching from certain regions. So you see moves around banks within the industry which we are watching closely,” Janssens said.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N) had put its wealth management units outside the United States up for sale, hoping to bring in up to $3 billion for the sub-scale business.

Janssens declined to comment whether RBC would be interested in the potential sale.

The Gulf Arab region, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, together pump a significant share of the world’s crude oil production, and global private banks have flocked to the region lured by the region’s growing ranks of millionaires.

The Middle East and Africa wealth management sector grew 8.6 percent in 2010 and overall assets under management could grow to $6.7 trillion by 2015 helped by high oil prices, a study by the Boston Consulting Group in June last year showed.

The region’s private banking sector has several pure-play private banks like Julius Baer BAER.VX and Sarasin Alpen, competing with diversified banks such as CSGN.VX, J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM.N) and UBS UBSN.VX.

Editing by Sitaraman Shankar

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