Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo unveils plans for ‘wealth management company’ in China

Intesa Sanpaolo, the Turin-headquartered banking group, said it is setting up a major new wealth management company in China, which will aim to look after high-net-worth individuals there.

The operation will be named Yi Tsai (Chinese for “Italian Talent”), and will initially be based – “as from the end of next year” – in Qingdao, a Shandong Province city of more than 9 million people on the east coast of China, between Beijing and Shanghai, across the Yellow Sea from Seoul. Plans are for the operation to eventually be expanded across all of China.

Qingdao was chosen because Intesa Sanpaolo holds a more-than-15% stake in the Bank of Qingdao, which is based there, and which has an “e-banking product platform” that it says it plans to utilise in its roll-out of the Yi Tsai operation.

In a statement released out of Milan on Tuesday, Intesa Sanpaolo said the new business, which it stressed would be a “non-banking company”, is to be wholly owned by the banking group “as follows: 55% by Intesa Sanpaolo – through [its] International Subsidiary Banks Division; 25% by Fideuram [Intesa Sanpaolo’s financial advice subsidiary]; and 20% by Eurizon [the company’s asset management operation]”.

Explaining how it sees its new business, the bank added: “Yi Tsai will be a multi-product and multi-brand company, favouring Intesa Sanpaolo Group’s Penghua FM and Eurizon [products and services]. The products will be distributed through a network of financial advisers organised and governed according to the best practices of the [Intesa Sanpaolo] group.

“After an initial pilot phase, in the pilot-area of Qingdao, where it will have its head office and the first financial adviser office, further financial adviser offices will gradually be opened in other cities, in order to cover a large part of the Chinese territory.

“[Among] the objectives of this venture [will be] to assess specific synergies in offering banking products through the e-banking product platform of Bank of Qingdao.”

‘Strengthening’ objective cited

Carlo Messina, chief executive of Intesa Sanpaolo, said one of the “key objectives” of the expansion into mainland China’s HNW wealth management market was to “strengthen the banking group’s wealth management activities”.

“With this initiative, our group intends to offer high net-worth individuals in China across-the-board financial advisory services for the long-term management and planning of savings, thanks to the expertise and credibility of Western financial institutions,” he added.

Finally, thanks to the way Italian luxury brands are seen across the globe, we intend to attract new customers and gradually expand our operations in the country and our presence in the industry.”

Growing international presence

Intesa Sanpaolo was created with the 2007 merger between Banca Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI.  It has been expanding outside of Italy in recent years, including into North Africa and Eastern and Central Europe. As reported, it opened its first private banking outpost in London in December, under the Fideuram – Intesa Sanpaolo name. At the time,   it was reported that  the company was looking to open further branches in Asia  and New York.

In August, International Investment‘s sister publication, Investment Europe, reported that Intesa Sanpaolo was in the process of moving towards a “wealth management company model”.

As for Qingdao, though relatively little known for a city of its size, it made its first appearance on the Global Financial Centres Index,  published by the Z/Yen Group and Qatar Financial Centre Authority, earlier this year, in 79th place. The index ranks a total of 86 financial centres, with London at the top, followed by New York.

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