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Mark Blinch/Reuters

When sizing up the prospects for big wealth management acquisitions abroad, there are growing whispers that Bank of Nova Scotia is bound to be next.

Since 2010, Canadian banks have been active buyers of asset managers beyond their home borders. Notable deals include Royal Bank of Canada's $1.6-billion acquisition of London-based BlueBay Asset Management, and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce's purchase of a 41-per-cent stake in U.S.-based American Century Investments for $848-million.

Lately there's a renewed fervour, and Bank of Montreal's $1.3-billion acquisition of Britain's F&C Asset Management only adds fuel to the fire. The big question on Bay Street is whether Scotiabank will be the next to strike.

This isn't a far-fetched theory. Scotiabank has spent heavily to expand its Canadian wealth management, with deals for E*Trade Canada, CI Investments and DundeeWealth Inc. But because most of this deal making has been domestic, it seems the next logical step for the international lender is to diversify its wealth management operation outside its home borders.

Scotiabank executives have already made it clear that this is their objective. "We are committed to growing our international footprint and over the next five years will make significant strides in this area," wealth management head Chris Hodgson said at the bank's investor day in September.

Currently, wealth and insurance, which are grouped together for reporting purposes, comprise 18 per cent of the bank's earnings. To get that contribution to between 20 and 30 per cent of the bottom line, which is where Scotia would like it to be, international deals seem like the smartest route.

To this end, there's already been some activity. In December of 2012 Scotiabank bought a 51-per-cent stake in Colfondos AFP, Colombia's fourth-largest pension fund company, with $9.7-billion (U.S.) of assets under management (AUM). And in 2013 the bank bought half of BBVA'a pension fund management business, AFP Horizonte, in Peru, for $260-million (Canadian). That added $9-billion (U.S.) of AUM.

The pension world is so lucrative in Latin America because many countries do not have government-run programs like the Canada Pension Plan. Instead, the government mandates that a portion of each employee's paycheque goes into a defined contribution account, which Scotiabank can then manage.

However, both of these deals were rather small. The financial terms for the Colfondos transaction weren't even disclosed because they were immaterial, and the Horizonte deal cost Scotiabank $260-million.

Could a big billion-dollar deal be next?