Barclays seeks to double number of wealthy Continental customers

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Barclays Bank signalled its growing focus on Europe yesterday when it unveiled plans to double its number of wealthy customers on the Continent by 2005.

The bank announced the target as part of a fresh offensive in the already-crowded wealth management market, which is bringing its fund management and private banking operations into one division, called Barclays Private Clients.

A Barclays spokesman said about the plans: "The City is always looking at what UK banks are going to do in Europe. Well, while some of our competitors are offering mainly online services in Europe, we are offering a full service."

The commitment to concentrate on this growth area followed comments by Matt Barrett, chief executive of Barclays, identifying the Continent as his preferred area for possible acquisitions. The bank has already made efforts to build up its brand in the rest of Europe and now has 250 branches and 650 advisers available for well-off customers in the rest of Europe.

Abbey National, Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Merrill Lynch have all also sought to attract affluent customers, with £50,000 or more to invest.

Barclays was one of the first of the high street banks to enter the wealth management arena and now manages more than £81bn worth of assets for over 1 million customers across 33 countries.

The bank said it has put "considerable" investment into increasing its client numbers to 1.4 million and into more than doubling its assets under management by 2005. It expects almost half of the growth in the number of clients to come from continental Europe.

Barclays' new incorporated service, which will be rolled out over the next few months, is aimed at a group of people it has termed "affluentials", who have an income of £60,000 or investable assets of £70,000.

Rather than having to deal with different managers for services like stockbroking or banking, with the new department, customers would be able to consolidate their banking with a single statement that would contain a round-up of the state of their finances.