As private banking comes into a new age and begins to show the maturity of a true industry, The Banker and sister publication PWM recognise the players that are emerging as industry leaders in the annual Private Banking Awards.

As private banking comes of age and begins to show the maturity of a true industry,rather than just a niche financial occupation, UBS Wealth Management is emerging as an industry leader. It is one of the few global players to develop a successful cross-border business model, although Citi has had some success in this quest, as to a lesser extent has Credit Suisse.

BNP Paribas Wealth Management is also making its mark as the closest there is to a pan-European powerhouse, with private banking operations in France, the UK, the Benelux countries and a host of other markets including Poland, Spain, Italy and Ukraine. 

The only other bank nipping at its heels with an expanding onshore presence in multiple markets is probably ABN Amro of the Netherlands, clearly a player to watch for the future.  

Yet these pioneers will not have this space to themselves for too much longer, according to Stefan Jaecklin, Zurich-based head of wealth management for consultancy Oliver Wyman. He points to the trend of large private banking firms, including UBS, developing their ‘Eurobank’ for onshore banking in different geographies. “What is interesting is that the operations will remain centralised,” says Mr Jaecklin, with regulators prepared to accept activities in third countries. “If this model works, as it seems it will, this would give the large banks unprecedented scale economies in onshore banking.”

That said, the client-led service model is still in its infancy. While many banks are becoming more attentive to better understanding their clients’ needs, much of the talk has been no more than lip-service, believes Gerard Aquilina, founder of AlexosAdvisors, and previously a global manager with UBS, Barclays, HSBC and Merrill Lynch. 

All are using buzz-phrases such as “client experience” and “trusted advisors”, he says, rather than paying sincere attention to their client’ needs. Although some progress is being made in moving from a product-centric to client-centric model, a battle for talent between institutions is not helping matters. “What used to be a business with long-standing relationships between client, family and one banker in the same institution, has turned into a revolving door of bankers and their managers more intent on meeting net new money and revenue targets than establishing a long-lasting, deep understanding of clients,” says Mr Aquilina.

Much more emphasis needs to be put on training and mentoring, including on-the-job courses for senior employees, with the increasing likelihood that many clients are now becoming as knowledgeable, or even more so than their bankers.

“There is a true paucity of good training for this industry,” says Mr Aquilina. “All too often it is focused on the basics of stocks, bonds and mutual funds but not enough on behavioural finance and succession planning.”

Two parallel processes of internationalisation and retrenchment are also shaping the industry. While Liechtenstein’s LGT does not yet have the penetration of the household retail giants, the once boutique mountain-based bank, with a little royal backing, is bursting out of its principality with a coherent expansion strategy for
specific European, Asian and Latin American markets.

Banks based in the developing regions of the world are also enjoying a lucrative spell in the private banking arena, and clearly have their eyes fixed firmly on further glories. Institutions such as Brazil’s BTG Pactual, one of a growing number of Latin American banks to show an interest in European markets after the purchase of BSI in Switzerland, and Singapore’s DBS – which has acquired the Asian business of French house Société Générale – clearly have strategies which go well beyond their buoyant domestic markets.

Latin American banks are keen to establish presences in New York and Europe too. Indeed, similar trends are expected among the more successful Middle Eastern and Asian local banks. The awards judging panel noted that Dubai and Singapore are becoming the London, Geneva and New York for Middle Eastern, African and Asian wealth managers. Surely the entry of Chinese banks into European and Latin markets cannot be too far away.

But we are also seeing a fragmentation of markets as wealth managers build up not just local customer service expertise, but a track record in areas such as philanthropy, Islamic banking and socially responsible investing. “The dominant players will now focus more on core markets rather than having a flag in every city, as was the
case in the past with banks like HSBC,” says Mr Aquilina.

There are essentially two types of institution emerging as leading players in this fast-changing landscape, says Julia Leong, a partner with PwC in Singapore: global banks targeting the super-rich and responsive regionally active banks; experts in ‘plain vanilla’ investment product provision, servicing an expanding but less mobile universe of high-net-worth individuals.

The business model of the latter is far more technology influenced, she says. “Costs should be moderate and this is where technology comes into play, where clients can serve themselves, for example with the use of an advice engine that has in-built artificial intelligence capability,” says Ms Leong. “The banks that fit into this category are typically those who already have a large local retail presence but have transformed themselves to play in the mass affluent space.”

Singapore’s DBS, France’s BNP Paribas and Holland’s ABN Amro all fit into this space. “A wealth management firm’s approach to digital client engagement will soon become the new differentiating factor in an industry where the financial products are increasingly commoditised,” says Alois Pirker, research director for the Boston-based Aite Group. 

This year’s awards submissions, he says, have shown that the most developed digital capabilities are currently offered by Asian banks – such as the main South Korean and Singaporean players – and their counterparts in Latin America. “European and North American wealth management firms are well advised to study these approaches,” he warns. 

Best Global Private Bank

Best Private Bank in Asia 

Best Private Bank for Philanthropy Services

Best Global Brand in Private Banking

Winner: UBS Wealth Management

UBS Wealth Management, which has once more proved the leading award winner,continues to see Asia as its major growth engine in private banking, bearing in mind that wealth creation in the region is currently more than double the gross domestic product growth rate.

Having celebrated its 50-year anniversary in Hong Kong in September, there is a massive self-confidence running through the bank’s regional staff offices, with little doubt among employees that they are working for the region’s leading wealth manager. Plans are also afoot to leverage Asian experience in fast growing markets in Latin America and the Middle East.

That said, UBS is clearly not turning its back on Switzerland, where it has remained a controversial player, blamed by some observers for giving private banking a bad name in its very birthplace. There is a strong recognition that there is work in progress in rebuilding the bank’s reputation on home soil.

UBS was the first bank to settle with the US Department of Justice, paying out $780m regarding charges of tax evasion on behalf of wealthy Americans. “It is good for UBS that this matter was resolved back in 2010 and we do not wish to make any further comment,” says Jürg Zeltner, who runs the global UBS Wealth Management operation. 

Yet he admits that improvements had to be made to the client offer in Switzerland in order to win back customers. “UBS has taken great steps in rebuilding client trust in Switzerland and these measures are beginning to bear fruit,” he says. “We have seen strong inflows in net new money, confirming that we are heading in the right direction.”

One of the major pushes to improve the bank’s image has been to improve the philanthropy offering, now celebrating its 10th year, with the team having grown to more than 30 staff. The latest plan is to not just keep this as a separate unit, but to integrate philanthropy increasingly into mainstream private client choices.

“One of our aspirations,” confirms Mr Zeltner, “is to make philanthropy a part of every client conversation and to offer our clients the tools and advice to direct a portion of their wealth for positive social impact.”

Best Private Bank in Latin America

Winner: Santander Private Banking

Santander, the bank with the largest presence in Latin America – boasting 5700 offices across eight countries – is not shy to take advantage of purchasing opportunities when they arise to expand its franchise in the region. Indeed it bought the private banking business of BNP Paribas in Miami last year, with about $3bn in client assets sourced from Latin America, which followed the acquisition of Standard Chartered’s Latin American client portfolio the year before. 

With €63bn in client assets under management at the end of 2013, Santander Private Banking’s Latin American operations saw net new money surge by more than 70% to €7.3bn, with operating profit growing by 9% last year. 

One of the bank’s key differentiating factors is its global offering designed to meet all customers’ financial needs, says José Salgado, global head of private banking at Santander. This includes tailored solutions ranging from financing, banking and investment products, to wealth/succession planning and real estate. 

He says that the offering from Santander’s competitors in the country “is limited at times to dressing up an investment advisory service, which does not cover other private banking customers’ basic needs”, such as those related to transactions or funding.

“The biggest challenge we have in Latin America in the medium term is to make sure that high-net-worth individuals are aware of the advantages of working with a specialised bank,” says Mr Salgado. 

Resources at Santander are being invested to further improve technology and develop a multi-channel communication strategy. “Continuous changes in the marketplace, both in terms of regulation as well as product and service trends, force us to continually review our IT platform to meet customer demand,” says Mr Salgado.

Retaining and attracting talent, to support growth and enhance customer service, are key concerns in Latin America for the bank. In Spain, the completion of the merger between Banif, Santander and Banesto has created new synergies, with Santander customers now benefiting from the open architecture in investment funds and advisory services, and Banif clientele gaining access to a broader range of insurance services and credit alternatives.

Best Private Bank in Brazil

Best Private Bank for Innovation

Winner: Itaú Private Bank

Part of Itaú Unibanco,the largest financial institution in Latin America in terms of market capitalisation, Itaú Private Bank managed 196bn reais ($79.2bn) in total client assets at the end of 2013, and saw net new money increase by 9bn reais in 2013.  

Serving 8000 wealthy families from its eight offices in Brazil, as well as offices in the southern cone of South America, the US, the Caribbean, and Switzerland, the bank has expanded mainly organically in its home country. In other Latin American markets, growth was achieved largely through joint ventures, such as with asset management firm MCC in 2011, and corporate acquisitions such as that of CorpBanca in 2014, both in Chile. 

“Many international banks have moved in and out of the region, bringing uncertainty to many families, but clients distinguish our Latin American DNA and appreciate that our commitment to the region is permanent,” says Itaú Private Bank CEO Flavio Souza. 

Supported by the innovation department, created in 2009, last year Itaú Private Bank implemented a client segmentation model that resulted in an improved offering, as well as greater scalability and efficiency for the bank. Also, recognising the importance of the high-net-worth segment, it created a new advisory model specifically dedicated to individuals having assets between 5m reais and 30m reais. 

Recognising the need to provide exclusive products to ultra-high-net-worth individuals with more than $20m in assets, who represent an important segment of the bank’s client base, Itaú Private Bank is also planning to step up its offering of alternative investments. A new process introduced in 2013 called ‘financial check-up’ gives all clients the chance to consult with several specialists at the same meeting, enabling advisors to identify opportunities and propose financial solutions. 

While innovation will continue to be critical in the technology and digital space, increased regulatory requirements call for banks “to review and reinvent” their business model, in order to better serve clients, but also deliver a sustainable performance to shareholders, says Mr Souza. The recent economic slowdown combined with tougher regulation has made the Brazilian wealth management market one of the most competitive, he says. 

Best Private Bank in China

Winner: China Merchants Bank

Although China Merchants Bank (CMB) had first-mover advantage in Chinese private banking,having entered the sphere back in 2007, its managers, who hand out copies of the treatiseThe Art of War, written by ancient military strategist Sun Tzu, know that major competitors are breathing down their necks. Indeed, among the bank’s most feared rivals is ICBC, the largest bank in the world by Tier 1 capital according theThe Banker’s Top 1000 World Banks ranking.

In order to combat this threat, CMB has been strengthening its private banking facilities, now accounting for 32 specialist centres in 27 key cities, serving 25,500 clients.

In 2013, private banking efforts at CMB were devoted to promoting an investment consulting service, expanding an open product platform, which has been the distribution target of boutique Western asset managers, and popularising the concept of trusts and other cross-border financial services.

One specific change is a realisation that Chinese clients are increasingly prioritising wealth protection and facilitating inheritance, rather than multiplying assets, as the investment mindset becomes more mature and stable. In addition, the bank is also trying to provide investment scenarios of a more cross-border and diversified nature, in accordance with client wishes.

CMB is also slowly spreading out its tentacles, having opened branches in Hong Kong and Singapore, offering access to greater numbers of global investment products as part of an asset allocation solution for private clients.

Best Private Bank in India

Winner: Standard Chartered Private Bank

India is seen very much as a land of opportunity by Standard Chartered Private Bank. According to Boston Consulting Group, India is set to become the seventh wealthiest country in the world by 2018, with a projected total private financial wealth of $5000bn, more than double that of 2013. This is the greatest jump among the projected top 15 wealthiest countries, and well ahead of other BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia and China.

According to Standard Chartered, its deep-rooted history and heritage in India provides the bank with “a unique advantage to tap into this rapid wealth creation”, leveraging networks to link clients across its core markets of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as they internationalise. 

The bank believes its strength in commercial banking, though multi-generational relationships with business owners, can help serve private wealth needs by extending this relationship. “As these clients frequently require liquidity or funding to meet their business ambitions, their personal and business wealth are often intertwined,” says Michael Benz, global head of private banking clients at Standard Chartered Private Bank. 

The acquisition of part of Morgan Stanley’s onshore private wealth management business in India in 2013 helped the bank boost its existing onshore business, adding scale and market share. 

Yet despite this supremacy in India, Standard Chartered has suffered in other markets, due to a variety of factors including regulatory fines to the parent company and a large-scale restructuring operation in Asia and the Middle East.

A recent Singapore-led reorganisation will place greater emphasis on private banking clients, according to Standard Chartered. This is aligned with a renewed focus on training and the development of relationship managers.

With clients from developing markets increasingly looking to the safety of London to bank assets and invest in property, Standard Chartered is also stepping up its UK presence. “We will continue to ramp up our product services and scale in the UK to continue to deliver on our aspiration of being a recognised leader in growing and protecting our clients’ wealth, and build the private bank for business owners across our footprint,” says Mr Benz.

Best Private Bank in Hong Kong

Winner: Citi Private Bank

The main source of private banking competition in Hong Kong is mainly among the global institutions, rather than domestic players, according to the management of Citi Private Bank in the bustling Chinese province.

Rather than offer localised, Asian solutions, the blueprint at Citi involves using the bank’s scale to address the growing sophistication of clients and to manage the associated complexities that come along with that and the demands of an increasingly regulated environment. However, Citi does feel the need to keep ahead of some newer competitors closer to home. These come in the form of larger players from south Asia, including Singapore. Banks such as DBS, for instance, have become more active in Citi’s Hong Kong marketplace, where they are taking steps to increase their footprint locally as well as globally.

Citi has always taken a global approach to investing and prides itself in offering clients the ability to diversify outside Hong Kong, with a particular interest in overseas investments. Citi’s clients in Hong Kong are particularly keen to look at private equity opportunities that focus on distressed assets and real estate.

On average, Citi’s Hong Kong clients have at least 60% exposure in Asia, with much of that focused on real estate in Hong Kong as well as in countries such as China, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. There is still a certain comfort in “investing in your own back yard”, say Citi’s bankers.  

While the bedrock of Citi’s Hong Kong clientele lies in the wealth of thriving families established over one or two generations, some of the newer wealth being created in Hong Kong tends to be by those focused on opportunities in China in the areas of tech, telecommunications and lifestyle. The bank recognises that it must rise to the challenge of servicing these clients. In comparison, Citi’s bankers recognise that just up the road on the Chinese mainland, entrepreneurial wealth occupies and dominates a large part of the landscape.

While senior European and US bankers at Citi have been worried about recent protests in Hong Kong, their local counterparts are more sanguine, talking about “disruptions and inconveniences felt throughout the city”, rather than a longer term risk factor threatening the safety of investments.

Best Private Bank in Singapore

Best Private Bank for Use of Technology

Judges’ Award for Industry Leader – Su Shan Tan

Winner: DBS Bank

DBS has provided one of the standout stories among award winners for 2014, having secured accolades for being the best institution in Singapore, its use of technology and for the leadership provided by high-profile, charismatic head of consumer banking and wealth management Su Shan Tan.

One of the main reasons why DBS has come into its own this year has been its acquisition of the Asian private banking franchise of Société Générale in Hong Kong and Singapore. The French bank had made a big point of hiring experienced bankers across the south-east Asian region in recent years, yet struggled to make the business profitable. With its own regional infrastructure and branch network, this should not be a problem for DBS.

The bank’s overall CEO, Piyush Gupta, recently re-confirmed that boosting its wealth management franchise is now a key priority for DBS, with the completion of the recent acquisition now improving the bank’s competitive position in Asia.

Ms Tan, known for her no-nonsense yet often humorous approach to business issues, says the acquisition signifies a “coming of age” for the bank, allowing it to access products from beyond Asia through the deal with SocGen.

The large number of Société Générale Private Bank staff are also joining DBS, including Olivier Gougeon, a long-term French insider who headed the Asian wealth operation for SocGen.

Although Ms Tan can be a divisive figure in the broader banking community, her role in this acquisition has won widespread praise, as has her absorption of customer service and technology innovation influences from other institutions across Asia, including banks, airlines and trading platforms. She has long maintained that the major competition for Asia’s private banks will in future come not from US financial players, but from the likes of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, with its range of payment services, search engines and cloud computing features.

With regards to the SocGen acquisition, however, Ms Tan was the “key instigator” in buying the French bank’s Asian operation, says Simeon Fowler, CEO at Fowler Fox and one of Asia’s leading wealth management headhunters and talent scouts. 

Not only has she hired several key staff to the management team, but she has also convinced the market to take DBS seriously since she joined in 2010. “It is fair to say that only since Ms Tan joined has the market started to see DBS as a major player,” says Mr Fowler.

Best Private Bank in Malaysia

Winner: CIMB Private Banking

Despite strong competition from rival Maybank, CIMB continues to celebrate pole position in the Malaysian private banking market, where it oversees $5.3bn of client assets, boosted by inflows of $620m in 2013.

While growth has been consistent since the private bank’s inception in 2002, chief executive and founder Carolyn Leng, along with her management team, recognises the need to continue this momentum by focusing on key growth strategies.

These include enhancing partnerships in different parts of the group, emphasising trust and estate planning, introducing more targeted client segmentation, taking advantage of growing demand for Islamic private banking services in the south-east Asian region, and product innovation including developing ‘upscale’ credit solutions.

Lending, according to the bank, not only brings additional revenue through interest income, but also adds incremental managed assets to clients’ portfolios. The focus has very much been on ‘bundling’ credit with existing facilities on the ‘product shelf’. Overseas mortgages for UK properties – always popular among Malaysian clients, but gaining increasing traction – have been particularly well received, posting a higher take-up rate than local loans.

Over the past year, CIMB has worked on strengthening key account relationship management in three segments – entrepreneurs, ‘baby boomers’ and ‘Generation Y’ members and their families. This is done through a team-based approach, where junior private bankers are introduced to younger family members, in the knowledge that these successors on both sides will eventually be key to the relationship between bank and client.

But the current buzzword in the corridors of CIMB head office in Kuala Lumpur is ‘regionalisation’, following the establishment of an offshore private banking platform in Singapore in early 2013.

Best Private Bank in Indonesia

Winner: Bank Mandiri Wealth Management

Established in 2002, Mandiri Prioritas, part of Bank Mandiri, one of the biggest state-owned banks in Indonesia, is one of the fastest growing priority banking services in the country, and by 2013 had more than Rp120,000bn ($10bn) assets under management, up 10% from the previous year. 

Mandiri has more than 36,000 private clients, although this number has dropped somewhat from the 55,000 mark it had in 2011-12, following changes to the way the bank segments its clients. The key driver for the growth in the bank’s wealth management business has been the economic success Indonesia is undergoing. Most of its clients are businessmen and women who are enjoying the fruits of the country’s progress. Part of Mandiri Prioritas’ growth strategy is to increase product sales to these customers, and it offers more than 40 mutual fund products provided by seven investment managers.

The bank services its clients through a network of 54 ‘Priority Outlet Offices’ spread across Indonesia and both total headcount and client-facing staff numbers saw significant rises last year. Communication is mostly done through traditional, non-digital channels, although the bank does reach customers through its website and via text and email alerts. 

Best Private Bank in Korea

Winner: Shinhan Bank

The private banking market in South Korea, as in other Asian regions, is undergoing rapid growth, and the Shinhan Financial Group is determined to take full advantage through its wealth management business – Shinhan PWM. Private client numbers rose 23% in 2013 and assets under management were up by 23% to Won15,500bn ($14.58bn).

Shinhan was the first South Korean bank to introduce a private banking business model based on a collaboration between banking and securities. It has 25 private banking centres within its retail branches, which were upgraded and renamed Private Wealth Management Centres in the first half of this year.

“These PWM Centres also offer expert asset management services to customers in other retail branches through link-ups with nearby branches that handle day-to-day banking business,” says Jin-won Suh, CEO of Shinhan Bank. Ultra-high-net-worth clients are also offered the services of two PWM Privilege Centres. “Our customised consulting service team provides one-to-one solutions to individuals with more than Won1bn in assets to meet their diverse and specific needs,” says Mr Suh.

In response to client demand, Shinhan was the first bank in South Korea to offer philanthropy services to its high-net-worth customers. Recognising that even though wealthy individuals were keen to donate, many harbour doubts about the transparency of some charities, the bank established a partnership with Community Chest of Korea, the country’s largest community-impact charity.

“Apart from asset management, we are also continually upgrading our ‘total life care service’ that includes a varied programme of cultural events, healthcare, golfing and even a couple matching services for our clients,” says Mr Suh. 

Best Private Bank in Taiwan

Winner: CTBC Bank

CTBC Bank has worked to strengthen its position as a global Taiwanese financial institution and to broaden the services it offers, an effort that includes the acquisition, in cash, of Japan’s Tokyo Star Bank and domestic life insurance company Manulife Taiwan.

The Tokyo Star transaction represents a landmark transaction for CTBC Bank, which already covered 11 offshore markets comprising the US, Canada, Japan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China. With 100 overseas outlets to its name after acquiring Tokyo Star, CTBC Bank will have a comprehensive regional presence including north-east Asia, and be better able to serve the increasing global needs of customers. This acquisition was also the first banking acquisition in Japan by a foreign institution and the largest mergers and acquisitions transaction in Japan by a Taiwanese public company. 

In addition, CTBC Bank had signed 19 memoranda of understanding with Japanese regional banks to reinforce its footprint in the second largest economy and banking market in Asia. The cross-selling synergies should include the development of wealth management business in Japan, and trade finance and cross-border investments between CTBC’s Taiwan, Japan, mainland China and south-east Asia customers.

After the global financial crisis, customers demanded more from wealth management, not only in terms of their return on investment, but also risk management, transparent corporate governance and professional financial advisor teams. In response, CTBC relaunched its wealth management service last year to strengthen its offering. As of October 2013, high-net-worth customers and assets under management have made year-on-year growth of 18.5% and 17.6%, respectively. 

Best Private Bank in Thailand

Winner: Siam Commercial Bank PCL

Thailand spells opportunity for the private banking industry, being home to some 136,000 high-net-worth individuals who it is estimated will have a collective wealth of $647bn by 2015. Lalitphat Toranavikrai, head of private banking at Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), says that over the past five years the bank has produced consistent growth and captured a greater share of the high-net-worth market despite an economic slowdown caused by the impact of political unrest on tourism and domestic consumption. 

As part of Thailand’s oldest local bank, SCB Private Banking continues to build its infrastructure and expand its footprint domestically, drawing on the benefits of the integrated banking model by leveraging capabilities from its constituent asset management, its financial market division, its economic intelligence centre, and its corporate and investment banking services. The private bank’s assets under management have grown consistently and now stand at $20bn, more than 6% of Thailand’s current $298bn in high-net-worth wealth. 

“Apart from the well-integrated platform of the SCB group, SCB Private Banking’s key success derives from the establishment of the investment intelligence centre dedicated to high-net-worth clients that we launched in 2012,” says Mr Toranavikrai. “With the AEC [the introduction of Association of South-east Asian Nations Economic Community] coming, the new challenges for local private banks such as SCB will be coping with international players, and we have spent years preparing to ensure that once the market is ready, we will be in a leading position to serve clients.”

Best Private Bank in Turkey

Winner: Akbank Private Banking

Akbank Private Banking is the first private banking service in Turkey with 10 regional centres throughout the country. This year a prestigious branch was opened at Zorlu Centre in the heart of Istanbul, which includes a ‘Private Banking Corner’ and has taken $10m in assets under management in six months. With the location of branches being critical to reach target clients, the bank has conducted a series of feasibility studies and decided to relocate three branches this year, and two next year.

Akbank has also launched a new business model with Turkish portfolio management companies for deposit investments. Under new regulations, portfolio management companies in Turkey will be able to invest in a deposit product and place their deposits in local banks. This opportunity is being pursued aggressively. 

Another new business area is ‘angel investment’ which brought together the private banking arm and the commercial banking business unit of Akbank. This year Akbank Private Banking organised conferences where these two parties could get to know each other and share their experiences. A web-based platform is also being designed for these parties to communicate online in the future. 

“We offer highly competitive products and execute client transactions both offshore – through the accounts of Akbank Malta – and onshore through the accounts in Turkey,” says Didem Bagriacik, department head of Akbank Private Banking. “Akbank Private Banking conducts its overseas operations and marketing facilities through its full branch in Malta and its representative office in Dubai.”

“Akbank Private Banking also supports contemporary art across various platforms. We have sponsored the international contemporary art fair ‘Contemporary Istanbul’ for seven years and provide customers with a range of collection visits, collection consultancy and participation in auctions.”

Best Private Bank in Saudi Arabia

Winner: SABB Private Banking

Riyadh-based SABB, an associated company of the HSBC Group, saw its assets under management grow by 10% to SR43.6bn ($11.6bn) and operating profit swell by more than 120% last year, thanks to a number of new initiatives. The integration of the private banking unit with the wealth management division has given private banking clients access to a wider range of services and a broader network of branches, and has made client referrals easier. 

The enhancement of the ‘know your customer’ process has enabled the bank to prioritise its most valuable clients and serve them more effectively, while a team to monitor and reduce operational risk was also established. Through HSBC Saudi Arabia, the bank provides local and international asset management services and brokerage, with the investment offering including money market, equities, fixed income, real estate, club deals and private equity.

Sharia-compliant investments represent a significant source of growth, with Islamic assets accounting for more than 70% of the bank’s total assets under management. Last year, the institution launched sharia-compliant structured deposits, sukuk and mutual funds. 

SABB claims to be the only bank in Saudi Arabia offering sophisticated custody and consolidated reporting services. The development of mobile banking has also enabled customers to access their accounts online and make transactions on the go, and the launch of an innovative, international equity trading system is also on the agenda.

“Competition from local and international banks is the major challenge we face,” says Arif Al Modaimigh, head of private banking at SABB. “We are investing in technology and the training and development of our private banking staff to continuously improve customer service.” Looking forward, the institution aims at growing its client base in all the regions of Saudi Arabia, according to Mr Al Modaimigh.  

SABB Private Banking needs to introduce value-added services for its clients, particularly for those travelling abroad, who can still bank with SABB through the HSBC network, says Mr Al Modaimigh, adding: “The expansion of international investment opportunities to clients, by offering a wide range of products and services and leveraging on HSBC expertise, has to be our top priority.”

Best Private Bank in the United Arab Emirates

Winner: National Bank of Abu Dhabi 

Over the past three to four years, National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) Global Private Banking has maintained its focus on becoming the reference private bank for the Arab world. Its initiatives include attracting top talent, promoting client centricity, expanding its international footprint by developing a hub-and-spoke approach with multi-booking centres, and developing international investment competence. This global approach has prompted the unification of its private banking businesses across four geographical areas – the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the UK and Switzerland – into one global team. 

The bank has kick-started an initiative aimed at improving the client experience, and designed to help align staff behaviour to customers’ expectations. The initiative – named ‘Bring our hearts to work’ – has introduced a common approach when interacting with customers and aims to ensure that all staff have the relevant skillsets. 

“We believe our customers should find it easy to bank with us, to the extent that they would be happy to recommend NBAD to their personal network,” says Ashraf Mazahreh, managing director of private banking for the UAE at NBAD. “This means ensuring our products are competitive, aligned to the needs of clients and delivered efficiently. To achieve our goals, we have promoted a robust fulfilment process that ensures seamless integration between front-, middle- and back-office activities while regularly monitoring turnaround times and service standards.” 

Compliant management is a fundamental component of customer service, as it allows NBAD to use client discussions to their advantage, adds Mr Mazahreh. “Responding to complaints the right way and learning from our discussions offers the opportunity to further build relationships and to tailor services to individual client preferences. When things go wrong for a customer, it is everyone’s responsibility to act to satisfy the client,” he explains.

“We have assigned a dedicated global relationship manager to every client, who will serve as a gateway to NBAD by employing a holistic approach, and supporting the relationship end to end by selecting solutions from the NBAD group, including retail banking, investment banking, brokerage and asset management.”

Best Private Bank in Bahrain

Best Private Bank in Kuwait

Winner: Ahli United Bank

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region is strategically placed to experience growth in the coming years, led by large oil reserves, a construction boom, new manufacturing facilities, increased education and universal healthcare, and cross-border alliances likely to be fuelled by events such as the World Expo in 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. These events will cement the GCC as a formal trade and tourism hub, the evidence of which is being seen in developments such as a GCC-wide rail network. Growth in these economies and the rise of corporatisation and global compliance standards in family-run businesses have created demand for sophisticated wealth management capabilities.

Ahli United Bank (AUB) is well positioned to cater for sophisticated private banking clients within the region based on its local reach and global expertise. It has a presence in Bahrain, the UK, Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, Iraq and Libya and manages one of the bigger regional non-banking financial companies (NBFC) KMefic in Kuwait, and has indirect ownership into Saudi NBFC Mefic, along with a 50-50 partnership in L&G Gulf to move into Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. 

AUB has developed comprehensive group-level ‘minimum operating standards’ and policy guidelines with each policy studied against the regulatory requirements of the respective geography and the strictest requirements implemented. Use of third-party consultancies has helped keep it abreast of the changing regulatory requirements, such as the group-wide implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act before June 2014.

“For 2015, we will continue to focus on delivering on our core commitment and capability, to be the provider of choice to our high-net-worth clients across our operating markets,” says Sawsan Abulhassan, deputy group CEO, private banking and wealth management at AUB. 

“In an increasingly interdependent world, we take pride in meeting our clients’ expectations for the level of local care and recognition coupled with global expertise on growth opportunities they seek at home and abroad. We will continue to aim at growing our loyal client base through new acquisitions, and no effort will be spared in sourcing and introducing innovative products that match their risk appetite while enhancing the overall investment proposition.”

Best Private Bank in Qatar

Winner: Al Khalij Commercial Bank

Al Khalij Commercial Bank, which has won the award for Best Private Bank in Qatar, has continued its pattern of robust growth. Its small team of private bankers based in Qatar draw their expertise from the bank’s commercial, corporate banking and treasury business in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and France to provide a platform for clients and produce the second best profit centre after corporate banking within the bank, with assets under management of more than $350m. 

With a client base of established ultra-high-net-worth individuals who are net promoters to friends and family members, single financing transactions now frequently exceed $50m.

Al Khaliji’s private banking business offers an unusual value proposition that has the feel of international private bankers but with a local focus, and a collaborative approach that enables it to fulfil its clients’ personal as well as business requirements both locally and internationally.

“Al Khaliji continued to build its private wealth offering by identifying compelling investment opportunities in real estate and structured products,” says Arfat Qayyum, head of private banking at Al Khaliji. “Our structured finance capabilities assist clients with real estate acquisitions and project financing needs in different parts of the world.”

Next year, Al Khaliji aims to raise the bar further. “Private clients’ wealth is growing and their banking requirements are evolving rapidly,” says Mr Qayyum.

Best Private Bank in Lebanon

Winner: Audi Private Bank

Based in Beirut but with pillars in Geneva and Riyadh, Audi Private Bank was the first bank in Lebanon to be exclusively dedicated to the private banking business. Comprised of a team of more than 90 people, the bank is pursuing an ambitious growth strategy, seeking to build a presence in countries where the Bank Audi group is located – Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and France. It has also started covering the North American market, hiring five new relationship managers to target the region’s wealth.

“In addition, the Africa and the Latin American teams are developing new relationships with high-net-worth individuals in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela and Senegal,” says Toufic Aouad, general manager of Audi Private Bank.

Targeting clients with at least $500,000 in investable assets, Audi Private Bank is attempting to reposition wealthy individuals out of cash and into different asset classes. Those unwilling to do so are directed towards retail branches, while those retail clients looking to invest in financial markets are sent in the other direction.

“Regional political tensions have weighed on investors’ decisions, pushing them towards more caution and portfolio diversification,” says Mr Aouad, although he claims belonging to a universal bank does “inspire security and credibility” in its customers.

As well as in-house products, the bank follows an open-architecture approach and is keen to build relationships to further its growth. An alliance with multi-manager Russell Investment Group gives clients access to international markets while Audi is looking to develop its private banking services in Turkey in collaboration with OdeaBank.

Best Private Bank in Belgium

Winner: KBC Private Banking

With a minimum investment threshold of €1m in investable income, KBC Private Banking, which has €25bn in assets under management, stands out from its competitors in Belgium by actively targeting the top end of the market.

“Our high entry level for private banking means that we can focus on the high end of the market and deliver more tailor-made solutions to clients,” says marketing chief Achille Boeyé. “It also increases the available client time as we can lower the number of clients served by a private banker.” 

Each banker is responsible for approximately 90 clients, but KBC also offers each client a personal contact and access to investment specialists at ‘Client Service Desks’, which are found in every branch, thus maintaining contact if private bankers are not immediately available.

With a clientele made up predominantly of first-generation entrepreneurs, KBC claims there is a high demand for innovative products and services. At the end of September it introduced impact investing into its product offering, allowing clients to obtain a financial return while also achieving a beneficial social and environmental impact. “This means it represents an alternative to philanthropy, where the party donating funds does not generate financial returns, and to traditional investment, which does not have any or has only a small beneficial social impact,” says Mr Boeyé.

The bank has also increased allocations to real estate as a means of diversifying away from traditional fixed income and has introduced private equity club deals, an asset class it intends to continue to expand into.

Best Private Bank in Germany

Winner: Berenberg 

In Germany, Berenberg strives to provide its private banking clients with the kind of investment solutions that are often reserved for institutional investors, through access to the research of 80 analysts who monitor listed companies through Europe, and advisory recommendations that focus on areas that promise to add value. Assets under management have risen from €28.2bn to €30.1bn in the 2013 financial year.

To reflect the depth of its investment research and client interest in German small and medium-sized enterprises, the bank created its Mittelstand equity portfolio, which holds 10 to 20 high-conviction investment positions in small and mid-cap listed companies from a universe of more than 100 companies listed in Germany and Austria.

The bank’s 150-strong IT department has developed a client reporting tool that can be accessed on iPads, while the firm’s ‘smart order routing’ trading system, which is linked with the private banking department, has also received a lot of attention and was further developed in 2013. 

Independence is a Berenberg tradition. Free of corporate interests, it considers itself very much a service provider, with each advisor looking after only 50 to 55 clients.

“More than ever it is essential for banks to align their business models with the need of clients,” says Peter Raskin, head of private banking at Berenberg. “In an increasingly complex and international world, Berenberg has remained true to one fundamental value: adapting to the environments and resulting requirements of customers. The need for in-depth advice has become more specific: foundations ask for special expertise, entrepreneurs ask different questions than senior executives, and private customers and professional athletes face different issues again. 

“We create centres of excellence that provide in-depth know-how and a forum for exchanging ideas. Berenberg’s specialist teams have the skills to meet the financial needs of a diverse range of clients. Tailored advice like this is complemented by a powerful team of analysts, a renowned economics department and a chief investment office with investment strategists, which explores and implements ideas. Our approach allows us to develop close, attentive working relationships.” 

Best Private Bank in Italy

Winner: UniCredit Private Banking

Following a cost-cutting exercise over the past few years, UniCredit Group has budgeted about €100m for the period from 2014 to 2018 for the growth of its Italian private banking division, the country’s largest wealth manager with €90bn in private client assets, and winner of the Best Private Bank in Italy for the second year in a row. UniCredit Private Banking is planning to hire 100 bankers, review its incentive system for bankers and implement marketing strategies. About €5m will be allocated to IT development. 

With technology seen as one of the key areas of innovation to enhance customer service, the private bank recently launched a new proprietary customer relationship management system and an online advisory service, which allows bankers to interact with clients at distance, enabling portfolio transactions in a virtual space. A service of video statements is also now available to selected clients online. Senior bankers are provided with tablets enabling them to create tailored multimedia presentations by using a proprietary app.

“Innovation and technology are part of UniCredit Group’s DNA and continuing to invest in our multi-channel strategy is crucial to capitalise on first-mover advantage,” says Dario Prunotto, CEO of UniCredit Private Banking in Italy. 

Aiming at providing solutions to achieve a client’s life goals, according to the concept of ‘real-life private banking’, the private bank offers a broad range of wealth advisory services – including succession planning, real estate and art advisory, and it works in tandem with the group’s corporate banking to serve family businesses, which represent a large part of Italian wealth.

Last year, UniCredit selected 1200 large Italian companies, considered to be the country’s future backbone, and each of them is now managed by a dedicated team of senior executives from private and corporate banking, as well as the risk management division. 

Believing in the merits of guided architecture, UniCredit Private Banking sources mutual funds from a dozen asset managements firms, and also offers fiscally efficient life insurance solutions, recognising that many clients have entered a phase of wealth decumulation, with family firms or real estate no longer able to provide regular income. The Italian private banking market is estimated to be worth €900bn, but about 50% of target clients are not served by specialist banks.

Best Private Bank in Luxembourg

Best Private Bank in The Netherlands

Winner: ING Private Banking

ING is taking a very different approach to other wealth managers operating in the Dutch market, according to Karien van Gennip, general manager of ING Private Banking Netherlands. “Other private banks in the Netherlands are centralising their operations, moving away physically from their client base,” she says. “ING on the other hand has implemented a different strategy. By opening ‘private banking hotspots’ we now offer premium services locally.” 

In 2013, ING Private Banking opened nine of these hotspots in an attempt to boost its local presence and visibility across the country. Besides solidifying relationships with existing clients, the bank is determined to find new ones, and is using the wider ING group, the largest banking group in the Netherlands, to do so, identifying potential clients from among its retail and business customers.

Product-wise, the bank has been responding to the demand for cost-effective passive vehicles. “We have recently launched an asset management strategy fully compiled of index-tracking instruments,” says Ms Gennip. “By combining these relatively low-cost products with the expertise of our ING investment office, we offer a clear alternative to the use of more actively managed funds.”

Over in Luxembourg, changes in the regulatory landscape and an evolution in customer behaviour and expectations have left the principality at something of a crossroads, says Sandrine De Vuyst, head of private banking for ING in the country, and business models are having to change.

“We are developing the bank as an international hub for the ING Group in the private banking profession in order to allow other clients within the group to benefit from our private banking knowledge and expertise,” she says. “In addition, we are looking to increase our local market share of private clients, using our universal approach.”

As well as the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ING Private Banking, which has €43bn in asset under management, services wealthy individuals in Poland, Romania and Turkey.

Best Private Bank in Sweden

Best Private Bank in the Baltic Countries

Winner: SEB Private Banking

SEB Private Banking scooped the awards for Best Private Bank in Sweden and Best Private Bank in the Baltic Countries. In Sweden, the bank has a dominant market position, particularly in the ultra-high-net-worth, family office and foundation segments. 

Across the industry, the cost of investment advice has risen owing to a preponderance of new regulations. SEB has bucked the trend and continues to enhance its service offering for chosen target segments across the range of investments, financing, philanthropy, legal and smart everyday banking services. 

“We are in it for the long run and manage client relationship over generations,” says Martin Gärtner, SEB’s global head of private banking. “Private banking is an important part of SEB’s historical heritage.”

While a lot has happened in terms of electronic platforms, the personal meeting remains key in a private banking relationship, and that often takes time to develop. 

“It’s a big responsibility to manage a client’s assets and developing an understanding for things such as risk tolerance often takes time. There is theoretical and practical risk acceptance. The two often deviate and vary based on experience as well as other things in life,” says Mr Gärtner. He believes SEB has become better in incorporating some of the findings from behavioural finance and that this enables a more direct and concrete client dialogue. 

It is important, however, to note that a willingness to take on risk seems to vary with changing market conditions. 

 “Client behaviour has changed and risk appetite is back due to the prolonged bull market we have experienced since the financial crisis,” says Sebastian Siegl, SEB’s global head of investment strategy. “Some clients will buy discretionary services, others advisory and a lot of clients also want access to a broad range of research to make their own decisions.” 

He adds that it is important to have a broad offering and to take self-directed customers into account; given the changes in technology and how globalised financial markets have become there are now several ways to interact with them.

Best Private Bank in Denmark

Winner: Danske Bank 

Despite winning this award for the second time in a row, competition in Denmark has intensified during the past year, according to Marlene Nørgaard, head of private banking for Danske Bank in the country. International banks have entered the Danish market and domestic players are focusing on and investing in the private banking segment. 

“That has only encouraged us to further fine-tune our unique operating model for serving wealthy customers,” she says. The bank has developed local activity plans to pick up on regional differences within the country and integrated Danske’s trustee and family foundations lines within private banking. 

“The result has been a growing market share with double-digit growth in assets under management and a net inflow of new customers,” says Ms Nørgaard.

Danske Bank is Denmark’s largest financial organisation and offers holistic private banking services to customers resident and domiciled in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. The bank’s Luxembourg and London units focus on Nordic customers residing outside the region, primarily retirees and expatriates. Younger customers are also targeted – with segments running from Private Banking Kids through to Private Banking Senior, Danske targets all generations. “We are caretakers in a full lifecycle,” says Ms Nørgaard.

The bank’s in-house developed Wealth Planner tool is designed to transform complex financial matters into an easy-to-understand visual overview. Clients are able to evaluate the consequences and risks various actions are likely to have on their balance sheets, both in the present and the future, and compare them to their goals and ambitions.

Best Private Bank in Finland

Best Private Bank in Norway 

Best Private Bank in the Nordics

Winner: Nordea Private Banking

With more than €65bn in assets under management, Nordea Private Banking is the largest private bank in the Nordic region, with 80 local branches and about 900 employees across Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. 

Over the past 10 years the private bank has achieved substantial growth, both in terms of assets under management, showing a compound annual growth rate of 11%, as well as number of clients and net income.

Improved client satisfaction and higher earnings are the result of some key projects.

The bank strengthened its investment offering, especially for business owners and entrepreneurs, with a renewed focus on providing strategic advice in areas such as tax, succession planning and sale of business. 

A client satisfaction index, where all client meetings are measured on quality and client experiences, offers the bank clear insights on how the institution is perceived, and a solid base for improving relationship managers’ training and increasing client referrals.

A key area of development is around digital channels, crucial to attract the next generation. “We want to move from basic online banking to more high-level interactions, and digitally connect with our clients through multi-channel touchpoints,” says Jukka Perttula, head of private banking, Finland, at Nordea. 

Significant resources are being invested towards the automation and digitalisation of internal systems. The aim is to develop trading platforms, online financial tools and a portfolio management system to better respond to client needs. More sophisticated online reporting, suitable for mobile devices, is also being designed. These developments come with the need to “keep a strong hold on security and privacy”, says Mr Perttula. 

On the investment side, the current low-yield environment poses challenges and brings opportunities. “We have to be alert and recommend alternative ways to generate income to our clients,” for example by adopting a more flexible approach towards fixed income and dividend-paying stocks, says Mr Perttula. But there is also a concrete need to offer a broader selection of alternative investments, he adds.

Best Private Bank in Spain

Winner: BBVA Banca Privada

While progress in portfolio management, risk monitoring and regulatory compliance will always be key focuses in any bank, BBVA Banca Privada also prides itself on its ability to anticipate new customer lifestyles and adapt to them through a range of different channels. 

Since 2013, the bank’s common infrastructure has allowed customers to start an operation in one channel and complete it whenever and wherever they want using the same navigation flows. The bank’s main innovations in 2013 included enhancing its mobile app to have the same look, structure and functionality as its website, and the design of detailed monthly portfolio client reports which are accessible from the website. 

BBVA is also trying to improve engagement with clients by offering a service that goes beyond pure banking. An important development has been the ‘Family Wealth Community’, based on three interconnected pillars of family, enterprise and wealth. The number of contributors providing content and events to the platform has increased to 30 this year, and in 2013, more than 150 events were held on all matters such as legal and tax developments, the situation in financial markets and macroeconomic analysis.

“One of our main aims for 2014 and 2015 is leveraging on new technologies and the flexibility of the different communication channels to allow our customers access to immediate, customised and thorough information about their assets whenever and wherever they want,” says Alberto Calvo, head of BBVA Patrimonios.

“Efficient execution of transactions and an overall investment risk assessment, together with a personalised face-to-face advisory approach, not only related to financial aspects, are also key to our partnership stance. We are able to achieve all these goals thanks to our innovative tools such as Asesora, Planifica, our closed community The Family Wealth Community, as well as our global risk tool.” 

Best Private Bank in Portugal

Winner: BPI

The past three years have proved very challenging for the Portuguese banking industry, with austerity measures hitting business activity and levels of wealth creation. Banco Português de Investimento (BPI) chose to focus on profitability rather than volume and has done its best to turn this difficult environment into an opportunity to differentiate from its competitors. The bank reduced the complexity of its products and portfolios, invested in technology and focused on its niche among Portuguese-speaking clients, and between 2011 and 2013 the private banking unit managed to increase revenues by more than 200% while reducing costs by 10%.

“BPI focuses on its core capabilities and hires or outsources the best experienced partners in non-core activities that arise,” says managing director António Luna Vaz, who claims that the bank’s open-architecture model makes it stand out from its rivals and also helps to avoid conflicts of interest between the private banking unit and the wider bank.

It has not been easy running though. BPI has seen a slight dip in its numbers of private clients, although assets under management increased by 17.5% between 2011 and 2013 to €4.5bn. “The increasing level of regulation in a low-growth environment is challenging industry profitability as a whole, and BPI is not immune to such a fast change,” says Mr Luna Vaz, adding that this was one of the big drivers of its investment in technology. The bank needed to find software that would be reliable when it came to treating data from different custodians and found a solution offered by its Advent tool.

Best Private Bank in Andorra

Winner: Andbank

Andbank, formed in 2001 by the merger between Banc Agrícol (owned by the Cerqueda family) and Banca Reig (owned by the Reig family), has a presence on two continents, and one of the highest solvency and liquidity ratios in the private banking industry (20.69% and 67.33%, respectively). With a long-term rating of A- by Fitch Ratings, it can claim to be one of the most solid private banks in the international financial sector.

Now owned by the third generation of these two entities, it is the policy of shareholders that no family member is involved in the management of Andbank, ensuring full independence. 

 “Andbank closed 2013 on a very positive note, having met the targets set in the strategic plan with room to spare: doubling the size of, and diversifying, the bank’s balance sheet and improving performance to pre-crisis levels,” says Jordi Comas Planas, chief executive officer. 

“Andbank has increased the volume of customer assets under management to €13.4bn, and the group has grown from €11bn of assets under management in 2012 to €13.5bn in 2013, representing a growth rate of 22%.” This makes it the largest financial institution in Andorra in terms of assets under management, with a market share of 32.8%.

“Additionally, in July 2013 Andbank carried out the most relevant transaction of the group: the acquisition of the retail business of Banco Inversis in Spain; about €4.8bn of assets under management that will be consolidated at the end of 2014,” says Mr Comas Planas. “Added to the group’s existing business in Spain, this will make it one of the country’s largest private banks.” 

Best Private Bank in Greece

Winner: Eurobank

The sovereign domestic and global financial crises have taken a heavy toll on the Greek private banking industry, which has seen its total assets halved to €10bn since its peak six years ago, according to Eurobank. The key issue for the surviving four key local banks is to devise strategies to attract back private investors’ funds withdrawn during the crisis, and try and draw new clients’ money. 

To rise to the challenge, over the past few years Eurobank has launched a new wealth management platform, which allowed it to improve and simplify reporting to clients, as well as managing and monitoring accounts more effectively. 

While new services such as systematic trading and account consolidation have enhanced its advisory offering, with more than 1300 funds on offer, Eurobank claims to be the largest fund provider in the Greek market. In a bid to attract investors’ wealth, and increase the portion of mutual funds as a percentage of the total client assets, Eurobank also plans to introduce specialised thematic funds (private equity, shipping, systematic trading, real estate) for high end clients, develop the synergies with its Luxembourg international office and booking centre, and launch “sophisticated but easy to distribute” discretionary asset management services for small to medium-sized portfolios.

“The recent fiscal crisis left in its wake an unusually large percentage of cash equivalent content in the average client portfolio, as a result of systemic fears and domestic market volatility,” says Alexandros Tsourinakis, head of Eurobank Private Banking.

However, the deep consolidation in the domestic private banking sector has created significant opportunities to acquire clients and private bankers, with the whole market expected to be boosted by increasing money flows returning to the country, as several European banks, such as EFG International and Credit Suisse, set up offices in Athens in a bid to take advantage of the trend.

 “The predominant key opportunity in the domestic market is the acquisition of new market share due to the radical reshaping of the domestic competitive landscape,” says Mr Tsourinakis. 

Eurobank Private Banking’s assets decreased by about 6% in 2013 compared with the year before, reaching €6.4bn, but net new money has surged by 25% since 2012. Operating income and profit also increased significantly. 

Best Private Bank in Liechtenstein

Winner: LGT

LGT Group, which has taken the award in the bank’s native Liechtenstein as well as being highly commended for its work in neighbouring Austria, is one of the fastest growing wealth management groups in Europe, with 2000 staff now servicing clients in more than 20 locations worldwide.

Managing $124bn for wealthy investors and institutions, under the leadership of Prince Maximilian of Liechtenstein, LGT is also starting to gather assets in Asia, from where up to 25% of the business base is now sourced. There are two fully fledged booking platforms in Singapore and Hong Kong.

LGT’s successful run has been in part down to its ability to attract staff from rivals, many of which have been struggling with brand and image in recent years. “We observe that our value proposition, our platforms and the way we do business are very attractive for experienced relationship managers. We have thus been able to hire a large number of individuals and teams for our franchises in Europe, the Middle East and Asia,” says Thomas Piske, CEO at LGT Private Banking.

Because of this current availability of staff, the bank will continue to invest in organic growth. “We will seek to bring further good client relationship officers and teams onboard. Thanks to our solid capitalisation, our stable ownership structure and our prudent, long-term strategy, we feel we have an excellent basis for achieving this,” says Mr Piske. 

The bank also feels it is well positioned to take advantage of the consolidation process in private banking, having recently announced the purchase of a portfolio of selected private banking assets worth more than $10bn from HSBC. “We will continue to monitor further acquisition opportunities,” says Mr Piske.

While a fine from the German authorities in 2010 following a major data theft is now “history”, according to Mr Piske, he maintains it is extremely difficult for a foreign private banking institution to be profitable in the German market. “We have no knowledge of a successful example, and we know the market well,” he says. However, LGT does not exclude the possibility of a local presence in Germany through the EU passporting mechanism allowed to LGT as a Liechtenstein bank, making the most of its home country brand and domicile.

Best Private Bank in Switzerland

Winner: Pictet

Pictet & Cie remains a force to be reckoned with in its native Switzerland – where some bigger competitors have struggled with their image following the crisis from 2008 onwards – yet many of its ambitions are now beyond the borders of its home country. 

The reshaping of the group in 2013, moving away from a murky unlimited liability partnership structure to a much more transparent reporting system, is a final recognition that the future of private banking is not based on servicing the needs of secretive clients who arrive on the banks of Lake Geneva twice a year. Pictet even moved to a new headquarters in a much less fashionable quarter of Geneva six years ago to herald this oncoming transformation.  

The bank is keen to focus upon its growth in neighbouring European markets, as well as Asia and the UK, which it has marked for strategic attention, expecting to add a handful of relationship managers in 2015 to service both domestic customers and international clients who now feel safer booking their business in London rather than flagging rival centres.

Pictet has 26 offices in 15 countries, and yet paradoxically, despite its international ambitions and outlook, it is currently in Switzerland where it is most appreciated by clients. While other local competitors were rattled by the crisis and struggled to emerge from it in one piece, Pictet has shown positive growth in managed assets, staff and offices. Its key differentiating factor has perhaps been a strong investment engine, based on thematic initiatives, with experienced staff leading the investment operations of both the private banking and Pictet Funds franchises in Geneva.

Best Private Bank in the UK

Winner: Coutts

The past few years have been critical for Coutts. Since 2010, the bank has sharpened its geographical focus, reducing its international footprint from 177 to 70 countries and regions, to focus on the UK, the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Switzerland.

The bank aims to grow its international business to 60% of the whole by the end of 2015, and already 50% of its assets under management are from international clients, but it also continues to have a strong regional presence in the UK, with 23 offices and the appointment of 295 additional staff over the past year. 

Coutts was the first UK private bank to launch a full advice-led proposition. Strong efforts are going into developing a professional ‘practice’ across the business, and on delivering solid investment advice coupled with timely product capability. Some £3.6bn ($5.8bn) in assets under advice have been invested in the bank’s new model post-Retail Distribution Review to date, and the platform, Avaloq, quickly came into its own, as it enables clients to view all their fees in one place.

With its 300-year history, Coutts is a big brand and needs to behave in a way that maintains its reputation for service and expertise, while forging ahead with tasks such as cutting expenses within the wealth division of its parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland. This resulted in expenses that were down by £15m, or 7%, for the financial year ending 2013. 

Best Private Bank in Ukraine

Winner: UkrSibbank BNP Paribas Group

UkrSibbank, despite being one of Ukraine’s most high-profile wealth managers, has nevertheless shared the collective shock of the country’s beleaguered banking sector following Russia’s annexation of a chunk of Ukrainian territory in March.

Along with competitor banks, UkrSibbank had to suspend all of its business in Crimea in April. Moreover, services have also been curtailed in the smokestack cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, where many of the institution’s business customers were based, because these areas are now under the control of separatist forces.  

“Our branches are also closed in areas where military actions are currently taking place,” says Alexey Aleksandrov, the head of private banking at UkrSibbank.

“However we are able to serve our clients in locations other than Donetsk and Crimea. All operations are available through our internet banking service and at branches throughout Ukraine.”

Due-diligence processes regarding the signing up of new clients have been under scrutiny across the country, after controversial figures involved in Ukraine’s previous regime fled the country, attempting to take billions in assets with them.

“When taking on a new client, UkrSibbank, belonging to the BNP Paribas Group, complies with the global standards of the group, as well as to the Ukrainian regulatory legislation,” says Mr Aleksandrov. “These verifications are confirmed on a regular basis. Obviously we check that the parties we deal with are not affected by the EU or US sanctions.” 

The bank was recently subjected to the intensive ‘stress tests’ organised by the National Bank of Ukraine and “passed them without problem”, says Mr Aleksandrov.

Key inspirations for the bank’s business model came from exploratory trips to Credit Suisse, HSBC and Lloyds made back in 2004 by Mr Alexandrov, who is keen to stress the vast difference in psychology between Ukrainian and Russian private clients.

“Ukrainian customers need to analyse information, see documents, visit your offices and attend at least two or three meetings with private bankers before making a decision,” he recently told PWM, The Banker’s sister publication. Russians, on the other hand, sign up after one meeting.

Best Private Bank in Kazakhstan

Winner: ATFBank

Bought by UniCredit at the height of the credit boom in 2007, ATFBank was then sold last year for less than one-quarter of the original $2.1bn paid, to a Kazakh insurance holding called today KNG Finance. This move was part of the Italian bank’s post-crisis strategy to refocus on its core assets. 

Under the Italian bank’s ownership, the Almaty-based Kazakhstani bank opened a separate private banking division, launching its first private centres in 2008 in both Almaty and Astana, and then building a wider private banking network in the country. Over the years, it has absorbed best practices and management and servicing standards from its international parent. 

Although private banking is still in its infancy in Kazakhstan, with most of the local banks having launched dedicated wealth management services only in the past three years, ATFBank boasts about serving generations of clients, with almost half of its client base having banked with the institution for more than five years.

While 70% of its private banking income comes from deposits, the bank has launched a number of banking products to face increased competition, including the Jewelry Visa card, made with precious metals and decorated with stones, which drew client interest.

In the relatively small Kazakh market, where legislative restrictions can make the product development process both challenging and lengthy, “client retention is a big challenge”, says Gulnar Balakhmetova, head of private banking at ATFBank. 

While some banks offer higher deposit interest rates and lower commissions, ATF’s strategy is “to provide stable, high-quality and efficient banking services, while ensuring clients full confidentiality, and a constantly improving product offering”, says Ms Balakhmetova.

The bank’s focus is on developing a more sophisticated asset management model, by offering investment products, including structured deposits, in partnership with local investment company Asyl-Invest. The bank is also looking to provide a range of ‘social products’ - including deposits and payment cards developed for charitable purposes for private banking clients - and further develop the premium cards offering. 

Best Private Bank in Georgia

Winner: TBC Bank Private Banking

Founded in 1992, TBC was one of the first privately owned banks in Georgia, and in 2005 it introduced its VIP Banking service, its first line of private banking. It has since added its Wealth Management and TBC Status Banking lines.

The bank admits that Georgia’s private and investment banking markets are vastly underdeveloped, though it strives to offer contemporary banking services and products to its clients. This also means there is plenty of potential for domestic growth. 

“We maintain a clear focus on core banking/lending activities in the Georgian market with local operations comprising 98.3% of our total assets,” says TBC Bank CEO Vakhtang Butskhrikidze. “Hence our future plans are associated with expansion on the Georgian market solely.”

The bank does have the ability to reach non-resident clients both within and outside of Georgia through TBC Invest, its representative office in Israel, which was established in 2011 and acts as an intermediary between potential future clients and the bank.

TBC’s multichannel strategy has been applied to its private banking services with internet and mobile platforms keeping the need for face-to-face communication to a minimum. Almost 100% of its Wealth Management services are conducted remotely, with VIP and Status at about 40%. In 2014, the bank launched the first fully iOS-integrated iPad app in the country.

Best Private Bank in Hungary

Winner: OTP Private Banking

OTP Private Banking, headquartered in Budapest, has a 31% share of its domestic private banking market and is a growing player in the central and eastern Europe (CEE) region, managing more than €4.2bn in client assets. In recent years, the main challenge for CEE private banks has been to benefit from the region’s growth opportunities while at the same time taking action to manage risk factors. In 2013, OTP Private Banking’s total assets under management increased by 16% in Hungary, while its cost-to-income ratio improved by 3 basis points, coming down to 58 basis points, which is low in comparison with its peers.

The bank has aimed to improve financial indicators and efficiency without cutting back on service levels, using a segment-differentiated model, which differentiates not only between the upper-affluent and high-net-worth segments, but within the wide upper-affluent base there are further sub-segmentations and different service tiers for each sub-segment. This approach was complemented by an innovative pricing structure and segment-weighted headcount model which targets the increase of the service fee on non-core clients.

CEE private banks and OTP Private Banking will face considerable challenges over the coming years. “Further cross-border and domestic regulation pressure generates extra costs, while the historical low-interest-rate environment overwrites the margin composition and creates dramatic changes regarding clients’ needs,” says András Takács, managing director and head of wealth and investment management at OTP Bank. “Our success in the past decade proves that we have the capability to implement innovative solutions to give strategic answers in various economic situations, which makes me confident we will successfully tackle new challenges as well.” 

Best Private Bank in the Czech Republic

Winner: CSOB Private Banking

Although CSOB, one of the more innovative banks in the Czech Republic, has maintained its status as the country’s sharpest private banking outfit, the outlook is not necessary a rosy one, as competition for clients heats up. This is particularly the case now that many Czech entities are backed by the firepower of foreign parents.

Currently, the main wealth-servicing rivals in the sights of CSOB management are UniCredit Bank and Komercni Bank. Tellingly, just like CSOB, both have a foreign parent company.

“The opportunity for us to draw on the expertise of KBC Bank, our parent company, is more than welcome,” says Pavel Tichy, wealth office director at CSOB. Particularly of interest are the funds and other products offered by KBC branches in Belgium, which offer investment synergies and “suggest themselves naturally” as part of an enhanced product strategy.

While CSOB Bank has now become the Czech Republic’s biggest fund provider, there is a concerted effort to open up the platform to external products in order to satisfy client needs. “This is a good start and a sign for our more demanding clients, leading to the provision of a better service,” says Mr Tichy.

A formal private banking community, known internally as PriBaCo, comprises representatives from the whole KBC group and meets several times annually to share knowledge and experience and to identify solutions.

As well as challenges from competitors, Mr Tichy sees regulation as a tricky hurdle to negotiate, not just Czech rules, but directives now emanating from the EU, such as MiFID II.

“Regulation is changing very fast and one must comply with it no matter what,” says Mr Tichy. “At the same time, one has to bring tailor-made solutions to private clients.” Yet the task of finding high-quality staff may be toughest of all, according to Mr Tichy. “Given that each and every financial institution has to face the same political, economic and regulatory issues, we feel the biggest growth-restricting challenge will stem from the lack of perfect private bankers,” he says.

Best Private Bank in Slovakia

Winner: Tatra Banka

Tatra Banka’s private banking arm, the largest and oldest in Slovakia, manages the assets of more than 3400 clients, with total assets under management of €1.7bn. 

Up until 2011, all clients were offered just the one investment account, which the bank admits was not well suited to responding to an individual’s goals and needs. So a new wealth management process was implemented with a clear focus placed on identifying and understanding customer goals. 

In addition to cash, there are now three separate strategies on offer. The Wealth Immunization portfolio is all about safety, eliminating credit and liquidity risks and offering inflation protection. High-quality government bonds and asset-backed securities are typical investments. 

The Wealth Growth portfolio, which aims to deliver yield and growth, is particularly suitable for managing retirement assets and the balancing of risk-off and risk-on assets is subject to in-house models run by the Tatra asset management committee. 

Finally, the Wealth Opportunity portfolio is defined as the ‘speculator pot’ – although Tatra is keen to cap clients at 10% exposure to this strategy, which is run
on a 100% open-architecture basis. The bank encourages its clients only to make allocations to this higher risk strategy
once they have realised their goals in the other two portfolios. 

Best Private Bank in Poland

Winner: Citi Handlowy

Created from the merger of Citibank Poland and Bank Handlowy w Warszawie in 2011, Citi Handlowy leveraged on the expertise and best practices adopted at Citi, its global parent and major shareholder, when it rolled out its ‘trusted advisory model’ last year. Based on investment research and analysis on both local and international markets, this model is also the first of this type offered on large scale in Poland, according to Citi Handlowy, and contributed to increase its client base by 25% in 2013. 

The bank prides itself in offering a “unique global banking value proposition”, being the only global consumer bank in the Polish market. Its 180 relationship managers are supported by a team of specialists and have access to more than 550 ‘Citigold’ centres globally. The bank is expected to finalise the recruitment of 70 new staff by the end of the year.

The reduction of interest rates in eastern Europe’s biggest economy, with Poland’s central bank just recently having cut interest rates by a deeper than expected 50 basis points to 2%, is a key growth opportunity for the domestic private banking sector, as it is expected to drive wealthy investors more towards investment and foreign-exchange solutions, says Tomasz Pol, wealth management head at Citi Handlowy. 

At each private banking branch of the Polish institution, a certified portfolio counsellor and foreign exchange expert assists the relationship manager, providing support in client meetings on foreign exchange transactions and foreign exchange-based products, such as dual currency deposits.

Thanks to an iPad app launched in 2013, customers now have the opportunity to transfer money and monitor their finances on the go, and the bank is planning to upgrade its wealth planning software, in the front, middle and back office, to enhance service quality.

“Compared to other markets where Citi is present, we still have lots of scope for improvement in terms of process efficiency,” says Mr Pol. “If we are able to adapt best-practice solutions from other markets, we will for sure achieve much higher customer satisfaction.” 

Execution should also be further enhanced, he says. “We have best-in-class products and wealth management solutions and the challenge now is to deliver this message in an effective way to all our customers.” Last year, the bank’s assets under management grew by 27% to 8.1bn zlotys ($2.45bn).

Best Private Bank in Canada

Best Private Bank in the Caribbean

Winner: RBC Wealth Management

Confirmed as leader in its Canadian home market, RBC Wealth Management claims to hold nearly one-quarter of total wealthy client assets in Canada, administering more than $250m of client assets and directly managing a further $44bn. The group also generates an estimated 45% of total profits among full-service wealth management companies in the country.

Yet the bank will not rest on its laurels, according to George Lewis, group head at RBC Wealth Management, who maintains that RBC’s bankers must be “always earning the right to be our clients’ first choice”. This means constantly innovating and improving the service proposition, and taking full advantage of the firm’s sister internal management operation. 

But growth ambitions are certainly not limited to domestic markets at RBC. “Over the past few years, we have been able to capitalise on a long and successful heritage in Canada to grow to our current position today as the fifth largest wealth manager in the world,” says Mr Lewis, citing figures from think-tank Scorpio Partnership. “Growing our relationships with high-net-worth individuals in North America will continue to be an important part of our strategy.”

The bank also has a long history in the Caribbean, where its brand stems from a strong retail presence. The wealth management business has grown steadily across the islands since the opening of the first office in the Cayman Islands in 1972. Banking, investment, and trust and fiduciary services are provided from RBC’s Caribbean offices, serving clients both resident and offshore, including from target countries in Latin America, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Growth markets such as eastern Europe have also recently served the bank well, although the primary focus here has been with respect to clients with local origins, who have created considerable wealth outside their original home market and typically reside in, and require international wealth solutions provided by teams in, key international financial centres, such as London. 

“With recent developments in Ukraine and Russia, we believe this approach continues to be the most sound and we have no plans to expand our presence with clients residing in these countries,” says Mr Lewis.

Best Private Bank in Mexico

Winner: Banamex

With $68.5bn in assets under management at the end of 2013, Citigroup’s Mexican unit, Banamex, claims to account for a 33% market share in the high-net-worth and ultra- high-net-worth client segments in the country. Net new money increased by 42% in 2013, reaching $9.8bn, and number of clients increased by 8%.

With more than 130 years of banking experience, Banamex boasts 4500 client relationships, more than 500 with ultra- high-net-worth families. These represent more than 50% of the wealthiest families in Mexico, according to the bank. 

Segmentation is key for targeting client needs. Onshore and offshore banking are treated separately, according to regulation, and recognising the different needs of high-net-worth and ultra- high-net-worth individuals, the bank serves them from separate business lines, which also rely on the group’s dedicated offices abroad, in the US and Geneva.  

Segmentation is based on client professions too, with the focus being on young professionals and entrepreneurs. The bank actively targets the ‘next generation’ and has launched a new digital platform allowing better interaction between clients and bankers.

“Banamex clients have access to the best global product offering in the market through Citi,” says Alexander G van Tienhoven, CEO of Citi Wealth and Investment Management for Mexico and Latin America. Scale, talent and expertise, with 550 bankers with 14 years of professional experience on average, are some of the bank’s key strengths, he adds.

But having a sound onshore and offshore franchise and global expertise is not enough, he says, when it comes to managing and growing clients’ portfolios in a sustainable way. “We need to continuously be ahead of the curve by innovating and understanding the changing environment. This is the core of our vision and strategy,” says Mr van Tienhoven.

“Competition is tough, especially if the name of the game is offering the best services and products to clients in a low-spread environment,” says José Ernesto Fuentes, CEO of Citi Private Bank for Latin America.

“With external frauds and attacks continuously increasing, we need to continue to have a strong franchise focused on managing risk and controls,” says Mr Fuentes. “Regulation is here to stay and we need to focus and comply, and that requires resources and effort.”

Best Private Bank in Chile

Winner: LarrainVial

LarrainVial and its private banking division, Gestión Global, have been enjoying impressive rates of growth in recent years. Assets under management were up by 18.5% in 2013, following on from a 20% rise the previous year, while the numbers of private clients have also been on the up.

This is despite increasing competition from overseas. “Adapting to the arrival of foreign private banks that have brought strong competition to Chile has been a challenge,” says Gonzalo Córdova, head of wealth management at LarrainVial. 

He reports that it has been a tough year for the bank’s onshore investments as the equity and fixed-income markets underperformed, though the bank is responding by trying to offer its ultra-high-net-worth clients greater access to its international platforms and more sophisticated products. 

“We have pushed alternative investments, mainly private equity, as a new asset class into our strategic team so they can incorporate these products as options for our private banking clients,” says Mr Córdova. LarrainVial’s part-ownership stake in Altamar, a Spanish private equity fund, offers clients a gateway to Europe, while the company’s asset management arm recently launched a Mexican equity fund and a Latin American high-yield fund that have brought an element of diversification to portfolios.

Clients are divided into high-net-worth (more than $1m), which includes ultra-high-net-worth (more than $5m) and family offices (more than $15m), all of which are offered the bank’s full array of products. Mass affluent clients (less than $1m) are offered a more limited range.

Best Private Bank in Colombia

Best Private Bank for Growth Strategy

Winner: BTG Pactual

A lot has happened at BTG Pactual even since it submitted its entry for these awards, underlining why it is a worthy winner of our awards for Best Private Bank for Growth Strategy and Best Private Bank in Colombia. The group, Brazil’s largest independent investment bank, announced in July its acquisition of BSI, a Swiss wealth management bank, from Italian insurer Generali. “For us this is the cherry on the cake for our strategy for growth,” says Rogerio Pessoa, co-head for wealth management at BTG Pactual.

The deal is the largest by BTG in the asset management sector and will double the company’s assets under management to $200bn, increase its employees from 3000 to 5000 and expand its presence into Europe and Asia.

Mr Pessoa says the firm’s great strides since its flotation in 2012 have been partly driven by its meritocratic style, sheer hard work and aligning the interests of its partners with wealth clients. The partners are heavy investors in the company’s products, sometimes taking up to 40% into their own accounts. 

This year, the firm also identified how regulatory change had opened up market opportunities in Colombia, such as in standardised local derivatives and margin accounts, which have brought new sources of revenues and engendered long-term relationships with important clients. “These new initiatives were responsible for 5% additional revenues to our books and are currently bearing more fruit,” says Mr Pessoa.

Having made such a remarkable imprint so quickly on Colombia, Mr Pessoa adds that Peru and Mexico are the next two countries targeted for expansion plans in 2015 and 2016.

Best Private Bank in South Africa

Winner: Investec

While Investec remains a nose ahead of fierce South African rivals including Standard Bank and FNB, it is continuing to innovate in order to stay ahead of the game, having recently launched a concept known as ‘One Place’, which the bank’s management believes provides true differentiation.

“This puts us in a position today where we are the only financial services company in South Africa that, under one umbrella brand, can offer private clients, seamless and integrated access to private banking as well as wealth and investment, both locally and internationally,” says Ciaran Whelan, the group’s head of private banking. Private clients, he says, can choose their preferred transaction channels from Investec’s mobile or tablet apps, the Investec Online Platform, a 24-hour global call centre or direct contact with private bankers and investment managers.

Whereas many Investec clients are based in South Africa, the bank feels it is important they are not restricted by national boundaries in their lifestyles or in their income generation and preservation. “We endeavour to simplify the financial lives of our ‘global’ clients and ultimately give them access to their greatest commodity – time,” says Mr Whelan. 

Some competitors are using South Africa as a regional platform for cross-border expansion, but Investec believes clients based in neighbouring countries will look predominantly at investment options out of the UK and Swiss platforms, both of which are available at the bank. 

“The fact that we are an entrepreneurial African business that has grown globally helps us understand African private clients,” says Mr Whelan. “We understand their businesses, their growth objectives and their investment requirements.”

Yet the challenges facing wealth managers, particularly in securing continued support and respect from government to enable them to continue to deliver favourable risk-adjusted returns for their clients, should not be trivialised, says Mr Whelan. “Without consistently good economic growth the political and economic challenges facing South Africa will be exacerbated and will continue to pose difficulties for South African wealth managers charged with realising good returns for their clients,” he says. 

The UK is a strategic priority for Investec, while the franchise is also being developed in Guernsey, Ireland and Switzerland. 

Best Private Bank in Nigeria

Winner: Fidelity Private Banking

Against a challenging socio-economic background, characterised by corporate and government corruption, political instability and insecurity – fuelled by increasing sectarian violence in the north-eastern part of the country carried out by members of the Islamist group Boko Haram – the growth of Nigerian private banking is driven by economic expansion, rising per capita income and foreign direct investment. 

The largest oil producer in Africa, as well as the continent’s largest economy, Nigeria makes up the ‘N’ of the ‘Mint’ countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) identified as the next emerging group of economic giants by former Goldman Sachs banker Jim O’Neill, who also gave the BRIC grouping of countries their name. 

“The policy-backed diversification of the Nigerian economy has created opportunities for entrepreneurial success, witnessed in various sectors of the economy, including entertainment, oil and gas, and information and communication technology,” says Nnamdi Okonkwo, CEO at Fidelity Bank. “These entrepreneurs are on the path of being the next generation of high-net-worth individuals in the country and will form the engine for private banking growth in Nigeria.” 

The regulatory body for private banking in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria, has maintained economic stability via well-implemented fiscal policies. Regulatory oversight processes and requirements are also continually improved to ensure clients’ funds are secure, says Mr Okonkwo.

The private banking division of Fidelity Bank, which targets clients with minimum investable wealth of $250,000, saw its assets under management grow by more than 30% in 2013, to N27bn ($163.3m), which may be seen as the average level for a private banking institution in the country. In 2013, the bank invested in electronic banking products, strengthened its customer service and the procedure to handle client complaints, and enhanced performance management tools. These measures positively affected revenue and profit, says Mr Okonkwo.

Investments in mobile banking technology and internet-based solutions improved the utilisation of client data, thus facilitating product cross-selling. The institution plans to further improve digital channels of communication, and dedicate more resources to minimise or eliminate bank frauds.

Best Private Bank in Mauritius

Winner: MCB Private Banking

Albeit from a low base, MCB Private Banking’s assets under management have grown at a compound rate of 250% over the past three years, reaching MRs29.2bn ($960m) at the end of 2013. This phenomenal growth was driven by the introduction of portfolio management and financial planning services, coupled with a successful client acquisition strategy and improved customer service standards. Establishing partnerships with external asset managers was also key, according to Didier Merle, head of MCB Private Banking.

The institution partners with international brands such as Société Générale, Morgan Stanley, Carlyle Group or fund specialists such as Kotak Mahindra in India. 

Leveraging on synergies within the MCB Group, i.e. the capital markets division and the corporate banking operations, also enables the bank to offer bespoke solutions to clients. 

But the limited size of the home market means the bank has to actively look for new pools of wealth. “The next logical phase of our growth strategy will be in the continent,” says Mr Merle. “We will need to deepen our understanding of the needs of the affluent and high-net-worth segments in Africa, build our brand in selected markets and leverage on the numerous advantages of the Mauritius jurisdiction so as to attract this regional pool of wealth.”

Mauritius has signed numerous double taxation agreements with other countries, and its legislation on trusts and foundations is “very attractive and the island itself offers a unique lifestyle”, says Mr Merle.   

To support asset under management growth, the bank is investing in a new IT infrastructure for custody services. As the business grows and becomes more sophisticated, client segmentation, currently around wealth buckets, will need to be refined too. 

As the talent pool of private bankers is scarce, building the capacity and capabilities of the team to retain talent and meet expectations of an international clientele are also top priorities, says Mr Merle.

Best Private Bank for Customer Service

Winner: JPMorgan Private Bank

JPMorgan’s wealth management franchise, recognised for its high customer service standards, has been investing much time and resources in areas of rapid wealth creation, including India, Brazil, Mexico and US regions such as Florida and Silicon Valley.

The growth plan also relates to client segments. As well as maintaining what the bank calls its “growth trajectory” in the ultra wealthy space, JPMorgan has focused on capturing broader market share in its high-net-worth business, both in the US and internationally, claiming particular success in Latin America and Asia.

 “Client service is at the heart of how we do business, and we are constantly thinking about how we can leverage our capabilities from one part of the world to help clients in another,” says Phil Di Iorio, CEO of JPMorgan Wealth Management. 

Each customer is assigned a dedicated client service representative, with preferences facilitated for online and mobile access, bill payments, direct deposits and paperless statements. New clients are offered a ‘concierge service’ to smooth the transition process. Both programmes began in the US and are likely to be extended internationally. 

Programmes have also been developed to anticipate specific needs, including those of family offices, the next generation and philanthropy. Family office leaders representing major clients are also brought together twice a year to share common issues, discuss best practices and build relationships. 

The bank’s Emerging Family Leaders programme has been built for the next generation to learn about family governance, investment strategies, philanthropy and building a global network. 

One of the biggest game-changers for the bank in terms of client interaction is the development of new technologies.

“Younger investors tend to use multiple communication channels and draw from many information sources, and we are focused on engaging more effectively with them,” says Mr Di Iorio.

Best Private Bank for Digital Communication

Winner: Hana Bank

Despite challenging market conditions, between March 2013 and March 2014 South Korea’s Hana Bank experienced year-on-year growth in assets under management and client numbers, which rose by 10.5% and 9.3% respectively. 

The bank has always had a particular niche in the ultra-high-net-worth market, and in 2013 it strengthened its offering with an exclusive networking club, the Hana Building Owner Club, to attract ultra-high-net-worth individuals owning medium to large-sized office buildings (3500 square metres to 16,500 square metres) around the Gangnam area. The aim is to reach other bank users and secure new ultra-high-net-worth clients.

The bank also introduced a new model to offer a differentiated asset management service to clients with a wider pool of investment products, some of which are the only ones of their type available in South Korea. 

In terms of digital development, 2013 saw the completion of the Hana portfolio early analysis and diagnosis system, a risk management tool that aids stability in asset management and a speedy response to market change, which is currently going through the patent process. As market volatility increases, the new computerised system minimises risk, and has strengthened its internal communication, risk calibration and manager selection process. 

The bank has also improved its mobile banking apps and the development of omni-channel to meet customers’ expectations that transactions on their smartphones or tablets will flow directly to the branch. 

Hana’s entire online platform offers integrated money management and monitoring. For example, it recently launched Tablet Branch, providing financial services including investment and tax consultations to customers at the time and place of their choice. Last year, the Future Finance Division was launched to bolster Hana’s non-face-to-face channels.

Best Private Bank for Islamic Services

Winner: Maybank Private Bank

Malaysia is the point of reference for Islamic finance, holding as it does 60% of the global sukuk market and with more than 71% of stocks in Bursa Malaysia being sharia-compliant.

Maybank’s success in the private banking business is attributable to its high-touch client service model and the breadth of its product offering and product innovation to meet new demands in deposits and financing. The bank offers a full range of sharia-compliant financial solutions through a strong affiliation with Maybank Islamic Berhad and Maybank Islamic Asset Management. 

“We enjoy healthy acceptance among retail and wholesale customers which is not restricted to our growing wealthy Muslim customer base,” says Eunice Chan, executive vice-president and head of high net wealth and affluent banking at Maybank. “New product innovations have been successfully introduced to fulfil the constantly changing needs of our wealthy sharia-conscious clientele.

“We will continue to strengthen our value propositions and product offerings to our clients by leveraging from the group capabilities and the growing footprints of the bank. With the growing global acknowledgement of Islamic finance, we will further promote Islamic wealth management to high-net-wealth clients as an avenue for socially responsible and sustainable wealth solutions that are based upon sharia and certain defined ethical values.”

Initiatives to acquire and retain customers include enhanced customer relationship management capabilities and solid infrastructure, and the leverage of predictive analytic capabilities to gain deeper insights into its high-net-worth clients and strengthen engagement.

Last year, Maybank’s high-net-worth business segment recorded growth in total financial assets and assets under management of 15.6% and 35.8%, respectively. Despite this fast growth, Maybank’s cost-to-income ratio remains within expectations, at 22.5%. Islamic financial assets among Maybank’s high-net-worth clients have recorded a 22.6% growth on the back of a 54% rise in Islamic financing and a 12 per cent rise in Islamic deposits.

Best Private Banking Boutique

Winner: Banque Syz & co

While not exactly expecting to burst out of his current “boutique status”, Eric Syz, founder of the Geneva-based private bank bearing his name, does plan to make an acquisition soon. 

Even though other banks have been looking to more exotic climes, he feels such a deal is most likely to succeed in Switzerland, where there will be more firms coming under the hammer as a result of both economic and regulatory pressures.

At the same time, Mr Syz is adamant that Banque Syz will not fall into the trap of taking on non-compliant assets that could tarnish its reputation. “We are one of the few banks without US-related legacy problems,” he says. “Our proportion of non-compliant assets is less than 5% of SFr30bn [$31.7bn].”

The key selling points for clients he wishes to attract will remain around conviction-led investing, rather than old-school private banking, maintains Mr Syz. 

“What differentiates us is that our DNA is in asset management,” he says, adding that he is particularly proud of collaborations with some external specialists including Arcadian, which approaches emerging markets investing with a quantitative mindset.

Mr Syz admits that private banking in Switzerland is still going through a turbulent time, but says the calm after the storm can finally be seen in the distance. “Over the next five years, the regulatory pressure curve will start to flatten out,” he says. 

Best Performing Private Bank

Winner: Bank Julius Baer

Recognised as one of the world’s best performing private banking groups, Julius Baer is unsurprisingly falling victim to growing pains and perhaps a touch of indigestion.

An extra 150 jobs will be shed at the bank by the end of 2014, as the integration of Merrill Lynch’s non-US wealth management business into the Zurich-based bank nears completion. Baer cut an estimated 800 to 900 jobs following the initial acquisition in 2012. But these developments will not stop Julius Baer from hiring, with IT singled out by chief executive Boris Collardi as an area where the bank has fallen behind some competitors, and where it must catch up with the pack.

Further acquisitions could also be on the cards, according to Mr Collardi, with Baer watchers expecting the bank to be in the running to buy Coutts’ international operations, despite the boss’s insistence that he would not participate in a price-swelling auction.

The bank recently released research recording wealth in Europe at €56,000bn. “This is the highest level on record, despite all the news about a European malaise,” says Robert Ruttmann, co-author of Julius Baer’s research document. 

“This allows Europe to maintain its role as one of the wealthiest regions in the world,” he adds, saying that this wealth is concentrated in France, Germany and Italy, plus smaller neighbours including Luxembourg, Switzerland and Belgium.

Although Mr Ruttmann says the research is purely “thought leadership”, it would be unusual indeed if it were not used to influence the bank’s strategic expansion in terms of hiring advisers for particular regions. One geographical area earmarked for expansion is clearly the UK, where Baer hopes to expand its customer base through identifying key investment ideas. 


All fields are mandatory

The Banker is a service from the Financial Times. The Financial Times Ltd takes your privacy seriously.

Choose how you want us to contact you.

Invites and Offers from The Banker

Receive exclusive personalised event invitations, carefully curated offers and promotions from The Banker

For more information about how we use your data, please refer to our privacy and cookie policies.

Terms and conditions

Top 1000 2023

Request a demonstration to The Banker Database

Join our community

The Banker on Twitter