Abbey moves into private banking

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Abbey National is making its first entrance into the lucrative world of private banking through a link with Hambros, the merchant bank, and Dah Sing Financial Holdings, Hong Kong's fifth-biggest bank.

The venture, designed to target wealthy individuals in the Hong Kong region, will be called DAH Private Bank. Abbey National and Hambros are each investing pounds 6.6m, giving them each 24.5 per cent interests.

Abbey National has an offshore operation in Jersey but has not set up a separate private banking unit before.

Hambros is aiming to boost its operations with the appointment of a new head of private banking, Warwick Newbury, hired from Coutts, NatWest's private bank, and due to join in January.

According to a survey published yesterday by Price Waterhouse, bankers are setting their sights on the personal fortunes accumulated by entrepreneurs in the emerging economies in the Asian region. This is also happening in Britain, where investment bankers are reaping the rewards of a hectic year of mergers and acquisitions and a rising stock market.

"If you look at M&A activity it gives a sense that the good times are back... but not to the excesses of the 1980s. People are going to save more," said Ian Woodhouse, associate vice-president at Price Waterhouse's Private Banking Consultancy.

He points to the decision by Coutts to open a branch in London's Docklands, where investment banks such as Morgan Stanley, and soon BZW, are based.

"Our clients are as likely to be a young, international investment banker as a member of the British aristocracy," a spokeswoman for Coutts said.

Price Waterhouse's survey highlighted significant growth in private banking but also an increase in competition in a market which has traditionally been associated with polite and genteel business practices.