SINGAPORE (Sept 3): It is hard to put numbers on the vast private banking opportunity in China, but here are some: US$29 trillion ($39.7 trillion) in household wealth and US$15 trillion in the asset management industry. Perhaps the most crucial number right now is the more than US$1 trillion packaged by local Chinese money managers into principal-guaranteed investment products, which are the focus of a government crackdown.

That intervention has given global banks a reason to reevaluate onshore China, a market that none of them has come close to conquering. What has long looked like a slam-dunk opportunity — the second-biggest pool of ultra-rich people in the world — also comes with cumbersome regulations and strong competition from home-made financial brands. But Francois Monnet, head of private banking for North Asia at Credit Suisse Group, is betting it is still better to arrive early to the party than late.

“Going onshore is a necessity for foreign banks in the next five to 10 years, and it has to start when the market opens up, which is pretty much now,” Monnet says.

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