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Credit Agricole Suisse eyes bigger Gulf portfolio

Strengthens regional presence with clear plans to cater to private investors who prefer fixed income and tangible assets

An automated teller machine at a Credit Agricole branch in Paris
Image Credit: Bloomberg
An automated teller machine at a Credit Agricole branch in Paris. Credit Agricole is aggressively pursuing advisory-based wealth management in the Middle East.

Dubai: Credit Agricole Suisse, a private bank belonging to the Credit Agricole Group is targeting a significant share of the private wealth management mandate in the Gulf and the Middle East, its top officials said in a recent interview with Gulf News.

Significant growth in oil wealth has increased the overall wealth generation in the region.

Capgemini and Merrill Lynch's latest Global Wealth report showed that the number of wealthy individuals rose by 10 per cent to 400,000 with their cumulative wealth jumping 12.5 per cent, outpacing every other region except Africa.

"New wealth generation in the Gulf is significantly higher than most other regions of the world. With a long presence in the Middle East, we are well positioned to offer the best to our clients," said Yousuf Dib, head of private banking of Credit Agricole Suisse.

To tap the new opportunities in the GCC, the bank is ramping up its team where it has offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The bank has had a presence in Saudi Arabia for 49 years and it was the first foreign bank to set up operations in the kingdom.

Established network

"Our bank still has huge potential to develop as a result of the long-standing personal relationships that the bank has built up at a high level in numerous countries, its network of branches in the region, and the importance of its business assets," said Dib.

About 20 per cent of the bank's assets have been coming from the region. Most of the management mandates are from wealthy individuals, family and private offices and wealthy entrepreneurs who are seeking to preserve and pass on their wealth to next generations.

The bank's focus is on advisory-based wealth management.

"Working on an open-architecture platform, the bank is not into product-pushing. We work on an advisory-based wealth management that has particularly worked well in the Middle East and Asia," said Bertrand de Margerie, member of general management of Credit Agricole Suisse.

"Every client benefits from individual tailor-made advice from his or her relationship officer. Our private banking activity is organised to cater for each person's specific requirements be they financial intermediaries, private clients or family offices," De Margerie said.

Equity offerings

The bank officials said there are big opportunities for investing in both developed market and emerging market equities.

For the entrepreneurial class investors, the bank is also offering private equity exposures around the world. Equities account for about 48 per cent of Credit Agricole Suisse's portfolio.

"There has been significantly higher exposure to fixed-income products from the region.

"But as the risk appetite improves, there are visible signs of increased exposure to global equities along with regional debt products," Dib said.

Credit Agricole Suisse reported a 0.4 per cent rise in net profit to 85.9 million Swiss francs (Dh339.02 million) in the first half of 2011, while assets under management fell 6.5 per cent to 45 billion francs, largely due to the strength of the Swiss franc, according to the bank.

Key partners

Financial Intermediaries are key partners for Credit Agricole Suisse and a core element of its strategy.

"They have direct access to our own global offering in private banking and to the Credit Agricole Group's Corporate and Investment Banking know-how. And they also benefit from our business process and IT outsourcing services," said de Margerie.

In addition to private banking services, Credit Agricole Private Banking also offers business process outsourcing (BPO) to other wealth managers.

The bank's information technology outsourcing (ITO) offers partner banks a turn-key IT solutions.

In addition to the ITO offering, the bank also handles back-office tasks for every kind of banking transactions.