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Banco Espirito Santo: eyeing Spanish high net worths

17th August 2005

Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo has reportedly revealed plans to expand further into Spain.

Banco Espirito Santo (BES), Portugal's third largest private sector bank, is reportedly planning to attract 15,000 new wealthy clients in Spain by opening four or five new private banking offices by the end of 2005. The ability to use its existing client base as a tool to leverage new business will be central to ensuring BES achieves its ambitious targets across the border.

According to Expansion, Manuel Olazabal, general manager and vice chairman of BES's Spanish division, has revealed that the bank is planning to expand its private banking reach in Spain. This will include both the bank's existing network and new client targets. BES [BES.LS] plans to open four or five additional offices in Spain and attract 15,000 new clients with a net wealth of more than E100,000, with 1,000 of these clients having more than E600,000 in liquid assets.

In the context of private banking in Spain, these are clearly ambitious targets. Fourteen major companies control 70% of the Spanish private banking market and foreign players are not unusual (half of the major players are foreign). However, those dominating the market are largely the private banking divisions of the leading Spanish retail banks, such as Santander Central Hispano, Banif, and BBVA Patrimonios. In order for any player to significantly increase its market share, it will need brand strength, high quality of service and customer recommendations.

According to a Datamonitor survey, the majority of Spanish wealth managers agreed that their brand, image and reputation featured among the top three most important factors when clients chose their service. 78% said that the general perception of their business was a key influence on potential clients. Given that BES is a well-established retail bank in Spain, with 26 offices across the country, it should have the brand recognition it needs to attract new clients, however it must not be complacent in relying on its current brand equity to achieve this on its own.

In addition, 28% of private banks in Spain thought that personal recommendation was a key influence, and the same number of wealth managers felt that the personal relationship between a prospective client and a wealth manager in their initial meeting was also important. With an overall Spanish client base of 40,000 to leverage for referrals, this should put BES in a strong position to achieve its goals.

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