World’s Best Private Banks 2021: Asia-Pacific

Asia’s HNWIs are a sophisticated and fast-growing market­—and banks have noticed.

Asia-Pacific (APAC) is a prime target market for private banking and wealth management, given its status as the world’s fastest-growing region for wealth generation. It is arguably the most competitive, a space characterized by a highly sophisticated and increasingly demanding client base with a youthful demographic tilt. Marking the region’s growth dynamic are a demand for generational wealth preservation; easy access to relationship managers; access to a wide range of products and services across the capital markets, backed by cutting-edge financial technology; and investments with an environmental, social and governance consciousness.

Methodology: Behind the Rankings

Global Finance staff select winners for these awards based on entries submitted by banks, company documents and public filings. No proprietary information was sought or shared in the awards process. We consider local market knowledge, global footprint and investment breadth and sophistication. Because metrics are rarely public in this sensitive corner of finance, we incorporate perspective from analysts and consultants. Performance data are also drawn from industry sources such as Scorpio Partnership’s annual Global Private Banking Benchmark. Size and growth are a factor, but Global Finance also considered creativity, uniqueness of offering and dedication to private banking as a core business either globally or regionally.



Within APAC, DBS Private Bank again sets the bar. At parent level, DBS Group enjoys unrivaled credit metrics and a powerful reputation within its peer group for safety and diligence. It is also profoundly cognizant of the private banking operation’s significance to consolidated income. In 2019, the wealth franchise accounted for 21% of group income on the back of record earnings that rose 16% from the previous year, buoyed by an 11% surge in assets under management (AUM) to 245 billion Singapore dollars ($181.8 billion).

Innovation underpins DBS’s private-banking performance. A standout event this year was the launch of the DBS Portfolio Advisory Enablement Tool, the first of its kind within APAC, which allows relationship managers to perform in-depth assessments of clients’ portfolio performance and risk exposure. DBS has homed in on surging demand for generational wealth management by establishing a dedicated family office unit to work with high net worth families to plan and execute cross-generational legacy succession and family-governance strategies.

DBS also sharpened its ESG initiative last year, broadening its ESG-focused product suite. It also became the first Asian private bank to adopt the MSCI ESG Ratings for its wealth management business.



Newly minted group CEO Thomas Gottstein has pledged create a “bank for entrepreneurs.” That mission is bolstered by the private banking unit’s ability to leverage the group’s formidable resources in investment banking, anchored in a cross-sell dynamic that pitches those skills and the bank’s balance-sheet capability to wealthy business owners.

Regionally, the logic is spot on; some 80% of Asian mergers and acquisitions are driven by family-owned enterprises, and the financing needed to bring off such deals plays to the bank’s strengths. Credit Suisse merged its investment bank and private bank in 2012 to form the Private Banking & Wealth Management division, which upscaled the bank’s ability to leverage the overall franchise to the benefit of its private banking client base.

The recent hire of HSBC’s Bie Lan Oey as Southeast Asia vice chair underscores Credit Suisse’s entrepreneur-focused business line; she was head of ultrahigh net worth clients at HSBC, tasked with leveraging group cross-sell. That suggests her hiring was smart for a bank looking for more synergies between its offerings.



UBS, Asia’s largest private bank outside China, started 2020 at the group level by reporting an eye-popping $215 million increase in after-tax profit, to $1.22 billion. Accounting for about a third of that sum was the bank’s Asian wealth management division, where AUM surged by 12% to $400 million. The Asian private bank’s key metric, relationship manager headcount, continues to best its closest APAC rival, Credit Suisse, topping 1,000 relationship managers versus just under 600 at its competitor. UBS has leveraged its consolidated business to serve business owners beyond the purely blue-chip, high-quality segment.



India’s Kotak Mahindra responded to the health crisis by building out digital infrastructure, easing clients’ stress by giving them more ways to access their money remotely. The Kotak Smart Solutions investment app gives portfolio access and risk profile analysis at any time, and access to internet banking. .

Kotak’s wealth management team has been working from home through the crisis, accessing systems and portfolios via private and secure connections. Clients are encouraged to engage in personal wealth management using the bank’s technological solutions, including paperless transactions based on a power-of-attorney model; automated real-time gross settlement; and fund transfer functionality via a net portal and mobile app.