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Private banking

NRIs invest with an eye toward home

There are some 30 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) spreading a combined wealth of about $1.2 trillion across 140 countries. These global citizens seek the best possible returns on their investments, but their hearts are firmly rooted in their native country and culture, which shapes the way they build their portfolios.

How the Societe Generale Private Banking anticipates the needs of the non-resident indian elite


Balakrishnan Kunnambath is Managing Director and Global Market Manager, Indian Subcontinent, for Societe Generale Private Banking. He leads a team of 26 bankers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, which targets about150,000 high-net-worth NRIs, including families and individuals with a shared net worth of about $500 billion.

Understanding how globalization fueled India’s diaspora gives SocieteGenerale an edge over the competition, explains Kunnambath.

“NRIs are sophisticated investors andthey’re extremely astute,” Kunnambathsays. “They keep track of markets, and they want to be in control of their investment destiny. We look at this particular segment as a separate market because of the close ties with India. These ties are emotional, familial and spiritual, as well as economic.”

An Affluent and Influential Group

Kunnambath’s clients comprise three categories: traditional NRIs; People of Indian Origin (PIOs), who have attained other nationalities but are closely linked to India; and Overseas Citizens of India(OCIs). They hail from diverse backgrounds and range from professionals to executives to business promoters.They all wield considerable influence within India. “When they go back and visit, they act as agents of change in India. Their prosperity and level ofsophistication influence lifestyles and behaviors within the country,” Kunnambath says. “The NRI there is a role model who promotes inclusive growth and social consciousness, anchored on spiritual and traditional values.

”Catering to the ultra-wealthy NRIs’investment needs requires extensive knowledge of global and Indian markets, as their portfolios are generally composed of 50% to 70% global investments, such as equities, fixed income and commodities, and 30% to 40% Indian-centric assets—mostly fixed income, equities or private equity linked to India. There is also the need for inheritance and succession planning as they look to preserving their assets for the next generation.

Offering New Models forToday’s Markets

The traditional asset-allocation model, which served private bankers well adecade ago, has had to evolve in current uncertain markets. Clients are now more risk averse and sitting on liquidity while waiting by the sidelines for good investment opportunities. They are looking for yield-enhancing or arbitrage opportunities.They are also interested in commodities like bullion and gold. Societe Generale Private Banking works closely with its NRI clients to access some of these opportunities and sophisticated structures.

A leader in structured products, Societe Generale Private Banking can offer a variety of highly specialized options, depending on the customer’s risk tolerance.

Beyond that, “we have a dedicated team of bankers based in Asia, the Middle East and Europe who are culturally and linguistically aligned and understand their psyche,” Kunnambath says.

“We are in the position to anticipate and stay ahead of the curve,” he says. “I think that is the biggest advantage that we have.”