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DBS, TD Waterhouse Form Online Financial Services

Singapore's DBS Group Holdings, arguably the largest banking group in Southeast Asia, has entered into a joint venture with global online financial services firm TD Waterhouse Group to provide what the partners call "self-directed" investors with a range of global investment services through multiple channels such as the Internet, call centers and kiosks.

The new company will enable customers to trade stocks in Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, the U.S., and other international markets. They will have access to financial products such as mutual funds, placements and IPOs, fixed-income investments, asset allocation tools and third-party research and information.

According to a DBS statement to the Singapore Exchange, these self-directed investors will be able to make trades and purchase investments through multiple distribution channels, including call centers, the Internet, mobile devices, Web TV systems, and DBS branches.

Said Philippe Paillart, vice-chairman and chief executive officer of the DBS Group, "Over the last 12 months we have been in a building phase, with the acquisition of a majority stake in Vickers Ballas [in February this year], which is part of our efforts to boost our retail advisory business; as well as enhancing back-room processing and settlement capabilities through a joint venture with SGX. Providing self-directed retail customers with a full range of investment options is the next step of our overall strategy."

The joint venture, in which both partners will have equal stakes, will combine TD Waterhouse's technology and track record in online brokerage with DBS's regional franchise and distribution network. The partners will also transfer their current Asian online trading accounts and existing technology and systems, as well as assign personnel to manage the new company, which is expected to operate independently as an affiliate of DBS and TD Waterhouse.

Slated for a Q4 launch this year, pending regulatory approvals and ancillary agreements, the JV will initially serve customers in Hong Kong and Singapore. The partners intend to expand the new offering to other markets in Asia at a later date, with Hong Kong serving as the hub for North Asia and Singapore for Southeast Asia.

Said Steve McDonald, chief executive officer of TD Waterhouse, "One of TD Waterhouse's key strategies is expanding our global reach. Bringing our services to new areas of Asia, such as Singapore, is an important part of this strategy and we look forward to offering millions of customers in Asia the same high-quality online investing experience that has made us a leader elsewhere around the world."

Since launching its IPO in 1999, TD Waterhouse has been increasing its range of products and services offered in Hong Kong, and expanding its platform in Australia. It has also launched operations through joint ventures in Japan and India. It currently services 4.6 million customer accounts in Australia, Hong Kong, Canada and the U.S. and U.K.