North Africa’s private banking networks are expanding in line with the region’s development.
The average meeting with a new client lasts for about three hours, enabling a private banker assigned to that client to explore their expectations and level of risk aversion.
This approach has enabled BMCI-BNP Paribas Banque Privée to gather MAD3bn (€267m) since launch.
Another Morocco-based bank, Attijariwafa, joined forces with French group Amundi (formerly Crédit Agricole Asset Management) to provide private banking services in the region.
Their joint efforts have enabled Wafa Gestion, 66% owned by Attijariwafa bank and 34% by Amundi, to establish a strong foothold in Moroccan wealth management over the past 15 years.
Yet another French player entered the market in May 2011, when Crédit du Maroc, a subsidiary of Crédit Agricole, launched private banking operations under the name Villa Val d'Anfa.
North African governments are warming up to the idea of allowing these foreign groups to approach local clients.
L’Honneur refers to the example of Morocco changing its foreign exchange laws in 2009 enabling Moroccan citizens to invest up to 15% of their assets in foreign entities.
Asset managers have therefore kept a close eye on the recent elections in Tunisia, L'Honneur says, in the hope that its foreign exchange market could also loosen up quickly.
At present, Tunisia's financial markets are archaic and unsophisticated, he explains, and there are no dedicated private banking teams in any of the Tunisian banks. This leaves a large gap in the market for foreign entities to fill.
Some French banks and institutions are already grounded in Tunisia, such as Crédit Agricole CIB and Amundi Private Equity.
If the foreign exchange laws are relaxed following the elections, private banking subsidiaries could follow in the path of the retail banks, as has been the case in Morocco, L'Honneur says.
These French banks will need to keep an eye on Turkish private banking operations, as L'Honneur believes Turkey's geographical proximity and cultural links with Tunisia might draw Turkish banks as potential contenders in the race to attract Tunisian investment once its political situation has stabilised.
Although L'Honneur says French-owned banks definitely have an advantage over other European players, thanks to their linguistic and historical ties with northern Africa, non-French groups have also turned their attention to the region and some have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Wealth for women
Swiss group UBS Wealth Management has offices in Cairo and has developed ‘UBS Wealth Management for Women' to suit the particular needs of women in the Middle East and northern Africa.
All of its advisers are women. This female-friendly team helps organise investment seminars about the latest trends in the financial markets and newly developed products, as well as providing asset management, estate planning, corporate finance advice or art banking services.
French groups developing private banking services in North Africa may have a historical advantage, but others are coming to the fore and differentiating themselves through established retail networks, special subdivisions aimed at women or exploiting their local touch.
As a relatively young market for wealth management, North Africa offers plenty of room for innovative offerings and new competitors.