Asia: Private banking goes online

SINGAPORE--Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse hopes to take private banking to new heights with the launch of its first click-and-mortar Global Private Banking Center in Singapore. From January 29, private bank customers will be able to monitor their accounts and portfolios, access customized market news and data, transfer funds in multiple currencies, transact globally in real-time, use financial simulation tools, and send special instructions to their banker "anytime, anywhere.

SINGAPORE--Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse hopes to take private banking to new heights with the launch of its first click-and-mortar Global Private Banking Center in Singapore.

From January 29, private bank customers will be able to monitor their accounts and portfolios, access customized market news and data, transfer funds in multiple currencies, transact globally in real-time, use financial simulation tools, and send special instructions to their banker "anytime, anywhere."

They can choose to do any of this online, with their private banker, or through the bank's service center here. They can also opt for automatic notification of, say, market developments and order status, via Short Message System (SMS) or email.

To be a private bank customer, you would need to have at least US$1 million of investible assets with the bank, although the bank does consider other factors as well.

While such efforts aren't new among financial institutions, few banks offer a similar degree of integration between the private banker, the Internet, and the call center.

"This one-of-a-kind offering...keeps us at the forefront of multi-channel, open architecture private banking developments," claimed Oswald Grubel, CEO of Credit Suisse Private Banking.

"Unlike in the past, banks are no longer the sole owners of financial knowledge. So, we have to be innovative," Grubel told reporters at a press conference yesterday. He declined to reveal the bank's investment in the center.

As with most online banking initiatives, Credit Suisse's Internet platform uses 128-bit encryption technology, an ID security system and Verisign certificates for authentication.

"We could always put on the most advanced security measures. But it's also the question of compromise between the level of encryption and performance," said Boris Collardi, project director for Credit Suisse Private Banking Singapore, on whether the bank would consider using 256-bit technology.

He declined to reveal the customer relationship management software used, noting only that it was from "one of the leading vendors."

When asked if the platform will be targeted mainly at the younger generation, Grubel observed that many of the bank's older customers actually spend more time on the Internet. "But the young demand it as a way of life."

For now, the services offered by the center are only available to customers who book their assets in the Republic. "We will see if it will attract customers elsewhere. In the future, we may have more than one center, probably in the North American time zone," he said, without elaborating.

On why Singapore was chosen for the Global Private Banking Center, Gruber said it was cheaper, and quicker, to implement it here than in Switzerland.

He also pointed to the Republic's position as a key offshore banking center, its comparable client confidentiality standards, English common law-based legal system and tax-free laws for interest and capital gains.