(Bloomberg) HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's largest bank, plans to more than double the number of its U.S. premier banking customers to 1 million by 2013, said Andy Ireland, head of the American wealth unit.

HSBC classifies premier customers as those with deposits and investment balances of at least $100,000, said Ireland, who runs premier banking and wealth management nationwide. HSBC currently has 450,000 premier U.S. clients, he said.

"It's a core focus for the bank globally," Ireland said in an interview at HSBC's New York office today. The U.K. has the most premier customers followed by Hong Kong and then the U.S., he said.

In America, the bank is aiming its services at "internationally minded" clients, such as those who travel overseas for work or have children studying abroad. The London-based bank estimates there are 25 million potential customers.

"That's what separates us," Ireland said of the bank's global nature. The bank lets premier customers open accounts at HSBC branches around the world and transfer their credit history when arriving in a new country to make them immediately eligible for loans or mortgages. Customers also receive better currency exchange rates. They are not charged fees for the services as long as they maintain the minimum balance of $100,000.

HSBC wants its premier customers to do more with the bank than open checking accounts, Ireland said. The idea is that premier customers also will use HSBC for wealth management, mortgages and investment products, he said.

HSBC Advance Customers

The bank re-launched its premier effort in 2007 and has seen 137% growth in customers. The firm plans to introduce "HSBC Advance" in the U.S. next year for customers who maintain deposits of $25,000, said Ashley Parker, the bank's president of the New York City region. Advance caters to a younger customer than premier, he said.

UBS AG also is seeking to increase profits from wealth management in the Americas. The biggest Swiss bank has opened a new wealth management office in New York and will add staff as it plans to expand market share among individual investors in the largest U.S. cities.

HSBC named Stuart Gulliver chief executive officer last week following the departures of CEO Michael Geoghegan and Chairman Stephen Green in the biggest management shakeup in the bank's 145-year history.