Private banking

Courting Asia's Wealthy Elite

With Asia’s wealthy families now comprising the world’s largest market, understanding the complex needs of Asia’s high net worth individuals has never been more challenging or critical. It takes a leader with solid experience and proven success—not only in the region, but also globally—to lead the charge in building the trust of a demographic that controls enormous and expanding wealth.


Olivier Gougeon, Societe Generale Private Banking’s regional chief executive officer for Asia, has spent the past two years building a regional team of more than 400 people representing 20 nationalities that’s equipped to manage the unique goals of this constituency. Now, a new generation of globalized and entrepreneurial individuals, who tend to spread their money across three to five private banks, is coming into power.

Managing “New Money”

Members of Asia’s wealthy elite are largely first or second generation entrepreneurs or business owners, and are reluctant to seek outside firms to manage their finances, preferring to be self-directed while seeking returns on investments. “It is important to be able to help our clients generate returns, regardless of the economic cycle. It is also our role to alert our clients of the risks they are taking in making those investments,” says Gougeon.

The shift in risk appetite is slowly driving a trend toward a more advisory-based approach, which is why seeking third-party guidance is gaining ground with a younger clientele.

We work as a team to advise clients. Our investment specialists select from an open architecture platform the best products to suit the client’s risk appetite. To support some entrepreneurs, we also leverage the strengths of our investment banking division to offer, for example, capital markets solutions,” he says. “At the end of the day, it’s important to convince our clients that a private bank can help them to sleep well so they can focus on their businesses.”

Navigating the Downturn

The global financial crisis, Europe’s debt woes, the U.S. recession and the slowdown in China have affected the confidence of businesses in Asia. A long-term vision, agility and client loyalty have enabled Gougeon and his team to triumph over the tumult.

“We are fortunate to have the benefits of a large global bank, and as a midsize private bank, we have the agility to adapt to changing market conditions. We have a highly loyal client base that appreciates the stability of the bank in such times of change.”

The crisis has also prompted an increase in regulations and compliance requirements. He adds that the bank ensures that risk awareness and transparency feature strongly in their advice to clients.

Nurturing Relationships

Societe Generale Private Banking’s client-centric focus, non product pushing approach as well as its commitment to offering bespoke solutions sets it apart from competitors who strive to be the biggest rather than the best at what they do. Ultimately, winning long-term trust and loyalty depends on banker-client relationships as much as it does on transparency and competitive pricing.

The private banking landscape in Asia is not as mature as it is in Europe. The offering is evolving very quickly, and what we do to make a difference is demonstrate that we are bringing value to our clients,” Gougeon says. “This means a focus on looking after the long-term interest of the client, because private banking is first and foremost about trust and personal relationships.”