• Bloomberg


Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch & Cie., Geneva’s oldest private bank, aims to double the wealth it manages in Japan to ¥200 billion in five years through tieups with local lenders led by Chiba Bank Ltd.

The Swiss firm, which has alliances with four regional lenders, including Shizuoka Bank Ltd. and Yamaguchi Financial Group Inc., plans to clinch accords with another five banks to boost access to more wealthy families and business owners, said Norbert Joue, president of Lombard Odier’s Tokyo office.

Lombard Odier’s efforts come after Barclays PLC last year allied with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. to tap assets of rich Japanese seeking to diversify their retirement portfolios. Japan has the world’s second-highest population of millionaires, trailing only the U.S., according to Capgemini SA and Bank of America Corp.

“We have a similar philosophy as Japanese regional lenders, given that we have both focused on locals in our long history,” said Joue, a 45-year-old French native who is fluent in Japanese after residing in the country for almost two decades. “Business owners in their early 60s are our vital clients.”

The Geneva-based bank aims to provide returns of about 4 percent on average to clients after deducting fees, and sets the minimum principal invested at ¥100 million, said Katsutoshi Iso, executive director of the Tokyo office. Lombard Odier targets generating a cumulative return of as much as 20 percent over five years, Iso said.

To fend off competition from big Japanese banks led by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Chiba Bank wants to attract wealthy clients in its local market with Lombard Odier’s services, said spokesman Jun Ogasawara.

Japan’s fourth-biggest regional bank by assets deployed about 100 money advisers by the end of May to its 106 branch offices as part of its wealth management business, he said.

The number of people in Japan with more than $1 million of investable assets rose 5.4 percent last year, according to Capgemini and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management unit. About 80 percent of the nation’s high-net worth individuals are over the age of 55, they said.

Wealthy Japanese “remained the most conservative in the world and held 55 percent of their aggregate portfolio in fixed income and cash/deposit vehicles,” the firms said in the World Wealth Report last month. That’s up from 48 percent a year earlier and compares with the global average of 43 percent.

Sumitomo Mitsui said in December it is targeting about ¥600 billion in wealth-management assets through its tieup with Barclays, betting savers will diversify out of concern that an aging population will strain the pension system.

The wealth-management market in Japan for people holding more than ¥100 million in investable assets has recovered to more than ¥200 trillion after a slump following the global financial crisis, Hiroyuki Miyamoto, a senior consultant at Nomura Research Institute Ltd., said Friday. The market was as large as ¥250 trillion in 2007, Miyamoto said.

Growing concerns over Japan’s financial status and future economic growth, coupled with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, increased inquiries from local customers for the bank’s asset management services, Iso said without elaborating.

Lombard Odier, founded in 1796 after the French Revolution, has 1,900 employees worldwide in more than 20 locations and manages 150 billion Swiss francs ($178 billion) in assets, according to its brochure. In Tokyo, the bank has 20 employees, including Joue and Iso, the French banker said.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.