TORONTO — Bank of Montreal's (BMO) private-client group is eyeing Singapore for wealth-management operations as it expands its wealth footprint in Asia.

"We're looking at countries like Singapore in a not-so-distant future. Hopefully we can move forward there as well," Jacques Menard, chairman of the Canadian bank's BMO Nesbitt Burns division, said in an interview.

The number of centa-millionaires - those with at least $100 million to invest - is expected to increase by 67% over the next four years in Singapore, according to The Wealth Report 2012 by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank.

While BMO has yet to set up wealth operations in the southeast Asian city-state, it has been expanding in Asia. The bank in February announced plans to purchase a 19.99% stake in COFCO Trust, a subsidiary of China's state-owned COFCO Group, to expand high-net-worth and institutional client operations in China. And in April 2011, BMO acquired Hong Kong-based asset manager Lloyd George Management.

"They are growing in leaps and bounds particulary in Asia right now," said Menard, who was in Toronto last week for the centennial anniversary of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

BMO's private-client group also hopes to capture more high-net-worth clients in the Middle East, where it opened a new office in Abu Dhabi early this month to offer investment-banking and asset-management services in the region.

"There's a quest for diversification (in the Middle East) that we, as financial advisers, hopefully can contribute to as well," Menard said.

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