BCGE adapts to its surroundings

The Swiss state-owned bank recently set up in Hong Kong, and its senior executives this week talked about their plans to penetrate Asia's wealth-management market.

There's a whiff of the David and Goliath about it. A relatively little-known Swiss bank with Sfr18 billion $17 billion in assets intends to take market share in Asia from its two biggest rivals, Credit Suisse and UBS, both global behemoths with well-established footprints in the region.

Banque Cantonale de Genève BCGE, 80%-owned by the Swiss government, is one of the country's 24 cantonal -- or regional -- banks. The combined assets of those two-dozen firms is Sfr404 billion, less than half the Sfr1 trillion held by either Credit Suisse or UBS.

Yet the global financial crisis has been a lot kinder to the regional players...

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