While big brand global banks continue to dominate in PWM/The Banker’s annual private banking awards, some interesting trends are also emerging.

Key facts 

  • This year, the number of categories and winners have reached historical highs since the Global Private Banking Awards were launched in 2009. In 2015, applicants could choose to apply for one or more of the 77 categories available, versus 73 last year. Sixty different private banks were selected as winners, versus 55 in 2014.
  • In more than 40% of the 77 categories available, the 2015 winners were different from those in 2014. Twelve institutions have won an award for the first time.
  • New categories include: best private bank in Australia, Bermuda, Kenya, Latvia, Monaco, Oman, best initiative of the year in relationship management technology, and in client-facing technology, as well as best private bank for succession planning. 
  • We received 130 submissions from 63 countries around the world, covering all regions. These included North America, Central and Latin America, Europe, central and eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia/Oceania.
  • More than 10% of all applicants are new entrants. A 100-strong cohort of institutions re-entered this year’s awards having applied last year, whereas the remainder have re-applied after a break.
  • On average, each institution has applied for 4.5 categories, among a total of 585 category-specific entries.

While there is little doubt that the big brand, global banks continue to dominate in PWM/The Banker’s annual private banking awards, some interesting trends are emerging that clearly permeate the industry.

UBS Wealth Management has taken the honours as best global private bank, best in Asia, as the leading brand and best for technological deployment and it was only a matter of time before Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second global powerhouse, would rise again and re-create its glory days. 

Those may not be far off, bearing in mind Credit Suisse lifts the crown this year for the best new initiative in client-facing technology. This is in addition to a regional award for the Middle East, a country award in a sanctions-ridden, economically suffering Russian market and a high commendation for Asia, demonstrating the bank’s fast Eastern resurgence.

“The successes of firms such as UBS did not occur overnight,” says awards judge Sebastian Dovey, founder of wealth think-tank Scorpio Partnership, who adds that future growth driven by the power of corporate identity and a more unified platform encompassing investment banking, as well as wealth management, is attracting new interest on a daily basis from the emerging wealthy.

But other more unlikely players are creeping up on the blind side, slowly and solidly improving their propositions. It is banks from other European locations that are proving to have more surprising and enduring strategies to fight the established giants.

On the multi-jurisdictional stage, the ‘Champions League’ of banks consists of 20 institutions, according to Scorpio Partnership. But at a regional level, there are also likely to be a few operators in each continent with an appetite for expansion and an ability to achieve a combination of brand, leadership and a strong franchise in each market, requiring “attention to all the details of maintaining a world class offering on a localised basis”, according to Mr Dovey.

The continued rise of BNP Paribas Wealth Management is particularly impressive. The Paris-based lender has romped through the rankings, named again as best private bank in Europe, while retaining its French crown, winning the league in socially responsible investing and mentioned in dispatches for excellent showings in Belgium, Hong Kong and the innovation category. 

The judges were keen to point out that ABN Amro, winning the highly competitive Dutch contest, was not too far behind its French rival on a pan-European basis, and it is performing well in Germany too.


  • Gerard Aquilina, independent family officer advisor
  • Yuri Bender, editor-in-chief, Professional Wealth Management magazine
  • Seb Dovey, partner, Scorpio Partnership
  • Shelby R du Pasquier, partner, head of banking and finance group, Lenz & Staehelin 
  • Faranak Foroughi, founder and CEO of Tharwa Management Consultancy
  • Simeon Fowler, CEO, Fox Partnership group of companies 
  • Dr Stefan Jaecklin, partner and head of wealth and asset management, Oliver Wyman
  • Julia Leong, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Singapore
  • Silvia Pavoni, economics editor, The Banker
  • Alois Pirker, research director wealth management, AITE Group
  • Amin Rajan, CEO, Create-Research
  • Ivan Sacks, chairman, WithersWorldwide
  • Ray Soudah, founder, MilleniumAssociates
  • William Sullivan, global head of market intelligence, Capgemini Financial Services
  • Cara Williams, global head of wealth management, Mercer

The capacity of some European banks to innovate has been demonstrated by Spain’s leading player for 2015, BBVA, also notching up an award for digital communication, while grand Spanish rival Santander has displayed its international credentials by triumphing across Latin America as well as closer to home in Portugal.

Singapore’s DBS, once more excelling on home turf, has also been named most innovative private bank globally, a major honour for the rising Asian regional force.

A clear trend to onshore private banking is underlined by a greater number of banks winning regional titles, rather than global players dominating regional categories, even if a pan-Nordic specialist such as Nordea can still be voted top dog not just in its region, but in Norway and Finland too.

“We are experiencing a major shift in the approach followed by the private banking players,” says Shelby du Pasquier, head of the banking and finance group at Geneva lawyers Lenz & Staehelin. “The larger institutions are actively moving forward to set up or strengthen their actual onshore presence in their main markets. This move requires significant investments and a long-term perspective that may eventually lead to a transformation of those groups.”

The smaller actors, he believes, will continue to focus on a smaller number of core markets that they service on a cross-border basis.

The idea of a Swiss-centric global industry has been receding since the attacks on leading players of Zurich and Geneva by US authorities, demanding names and account details and imposing massive fines. Concentration in the Swiss industry is likely to increase, with further mergers and exits on the road ahead in coming months, believe local commentators, in parallel with the ongoing refocus of Swiss private banking.

“Offshore is a phrase that is rapidly being consigned to the history books,” says Mr Dovey. “In the context of tax reporting, with the likes of Fatca [Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act] and now CRS [Common Reporting Standards], we are transitioning inevitably towards a financial world without borders. Notably, clients appear to be more in step with the trend than some financial institutions.”

While most major global and regional banks appear to have realised the old days of soliciting undeclared funds are behind them and have put in place procedures to better scrutinise new clients at the ‘onboarding’ stage, many are haunted by legacy business, which has led to unwelcome headlines about players such as HSBC.

It is tough for banks to rid themselves of thousands of existing undeclared customers, particularly smaller accounts, says family office advisor Gerard Aquilina, with firms far from completely cleaning up their books.

“Many accounts are legacy accounts bankers have inherited and many clients were not known to existing teams and need to be contacted,” he says. “Doing this by phone in secrecy-prone countries is a challenge. Once contacted, clients need to either regularise their situation or find new banks to accept them. This can prove a huge and unhappy task.”

Other less obvious trends are also troubling the industry. Rather than concentrating on investments and providing performance returns for clients, some private banks are beginning to perceive investments as commoditised products.

One of the reasons, believe commentators, is to do with the dated private banking business model, where relationship managers are supposed to influence portfolio structure and asset allocation, whereas this is often outside their area of competence.

“Especially after the disastrous performance of most banks in 2008, banks have tried to upgrade the competence of their bankers,” says a Mr Aquilina.

Private bankers, he says, have their hands so full of administrative and regulatory duties, plus pressure from above to gather assets, that their ability to manage portfolios is often sub-optimal. This has led to the creation of specialised teams to help bankers construct and monitor portfolios, but with equally unconvincing results. “So many try to impress clients with performance when clients really just want capital preservation and some minimal return,” he says. 

  • Best Global Private Bank
  • Best Private Bank in Asia
  • Best Global Brand in Private Banking
  • Best Private Bank for Use of Technology
  • Winner: UBS Wealth Management

Client assets were up 9% to slightly more than $2000bn at UBS Wealth Management in 2014, despite a 19% fall in net new money to $46bn. 

Looking at these figures it quickly becomes clear what a colossus its managerial team is dealing with and how constant innovation and re-invention is needed to maintain flows and profits.

The Asia Pacific region, where 25% of the bank’s private client assets are sourced, is currently showing the strongest inflows, followed by Switzerland and then the emerging economies.

The latest strategy for the offering, under Jürg Zeltner in Zurich, is to further streamline the wealth management business model, significantly reducing complexity on costs, focusing on core markets, increasing standardisation of products and consolidation of booking centres and IT platforms.

These broad strategies will work in tandem with a shift of traditional advisory assets into mandates, combined with a big push to serve affluent clients, in addition to the mainstays of high-net-worth and ultra-wealthy clients.

The digital transformation at the bank seems even more focused, with a complete review of client communications and the introduction of a simple, human and clear tone of voice, teaming up with a mobile-compatible, freshened-up brand look and feel.

New initiatives are handled through Innovation Labs, currently being developed for Zurich, Singapore and London. Since 2013, digital systematic portfolio monitoring has been at the heart of the UBS Advice service, presently monitoring the overseers of $21bn in client assets. Portfolios are checked every night for six criteria, in return for a flat fee.

Mr Zeltner agrees that one of his key priorities is moving today’s business model onto a “digital footing”.

While he believes fintech start-ups have totally different approaches to wealth management, banks must embrace the differences and learn how to adapt, rather than worrying that they will be replaced by robots. “If you have wealth, you want it in a safe place, in a regulated bank,” he says.

  • Best Private Bank in Europe
  • Best Private Bank in France
  • Best Private Bank for Socially Responsible Investing
  • Winner: BNP Paribas Wealth Management

With global client assets nudging $340bn and profits up 9% to more than e920m during 2014, BNP Paribas is proving difficult to challenge. Its private banking operations in the eurozone are now making significant inroads into Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, the UK and Turkey, among others, in addition to leading positions in France and Belgium.

The judges also recognised the French bank’s increasing footprint in Asia and in Hong Kong in particular.

“Being European is a great asset to us,” says Vincent Lecomte, co-chief executive at BNP Paribas Wealth Management. “The Chinese are coming to us to help them invest in Europe, which is becoming much more attractive to them and they have a strong belief in the potential upside.”

The bank has been a significant promoter of philanthropy and opened entrepreneurial hubs across Europe, facilitated by educational programmes including a one-week course for female entrepreneurs held in California.

Its sponsorship of the prestigious Roland Garros annual tennis tournament in Paris has been a particularly efficient springboard for private banking business, helping facilitate meetings with global clients, often on the back of coaching clinics with tennis champions.

BNP Paribas has also stepped up its presence in New York, not just to encourage US flows, but to monitor global compliance with US regulations.

But the most prolific rise in the bank’s business has been in its suite of SRI strategies, aided by expertise in this area developed in the asset management division. Private client assets in SRI have burst through the $6bn barrier at BNP Paribas, currently rising 50% each year and spanning strategies including microfinance, water treatment, energy efficiency and social entrepreneurship.

  • Best Private Bank in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Winner: Erste Private Banking

Erste is ambitious. The Vienna-headquartered bank is now present in six countries in central and eastern Europe (CEE), namely Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Romania, and its clear goal is to become the number one provider of private banking services in all those countries, according to Peter Ipkovich, head of private banking, CEE, at Erste. 

“This is quite challenging in some countries,” he admits. “Nevertheless, we are prepared to use any opportunity to boost our business as we have done recently in Hungary, where we acquired the Hungarian Citibank operations.”

Client numbers were up by 3.5% to just under 13,500 in 2014, while assets under management rose by 7.3% to e18.1bn.

The dual-service model, implemented in all countries in which Erste operates, means the main account manager in a branch shares responsibility for the client with the private banker. The private banker, however, acts as primary relationship manager for all clients’ banking needs. 

Portfolio management and most of the fund of funds solutions are managed centrally, whereas local flavours and needs are covered by unique products in each entity, according to Mr Ipkovich. “It’s a mix of central and local product resulting in tailor-made solutions for our customers. The alignment is not always easy but crucial for a comprehensive product range,” he says.

Private banking clients in CEE are becoming more educated and increasingly demanding, he believes, while economic growth in the region remains at a low level, there are indicators that it could soon outpace the rest of Europe.

  • Best Private Bank in the Middle East
  • Best Private Bank in Russia
  • Best Initiative of the Year in Client-facing Technology
  • Winner: Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse’s client-facing technology initiative is a perfect example of how private banks, in order to remain competitive, are having to transform their service models. The bank says it wishes to empower clients with round-the-clock access to account information, market insights, and intelligence personalised to their portfolios, while giving them the ability to trade. 

In early 2015, the global bank launched its digital private banking platform first in Asia-Pacific, its largest private banking business outside Switzerland, followed by the introduction of a private banking app in its home market. 

This was the first step of a multi-year global rollout, which will cover the US and Europe from late 2016.

“For us it is important to create a consistent user experience across all regions, hence our architectural thrust to create a digital platform that can be adopted across different booking centres around the globe,” says Marco Abele, managing director and head of digital private banking at Credit Suisse.

Having launched an app to help relationship managers give better advice in client meetings, the bank is planning to create a new dedicated ‘RM Ecosystem’ based on the new digital platform, aimed at connecting daily activities, improving productivity and providing advisors with timely information to deepen client engagement. 

Change management, talent transformation and client awareness are key factors for a successful digital transformation, says Mr Abele. “We can build the most beautiful application, but if it is not used it is worthless,” he says. “A transformation effort means a behavioural change of all participants.” To facilitate that change, it is important to involve the participants early in the design process, he says. 

“Impatience is the biggest challenge. Digital transformation is a marathon, not a sprint,” warns Mr Abele. 

The bank also won awards for best private bank in Russia and in the Middle East, for the third and second year running, respectively. 

In the Middle East, the bank was able, for the first time, to provide lending and custody against local Gulf Co-operation Council shares to clients. 

“This key differentiating capability is important for our growth and is enabled by our integrated bank approach, combining private banking, investment banking and asset management capabilities,” says Bruno Daher, Credit Suisse’s Middle East and north Africa CEO. Ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) are of strategic importance to the Middle East region and account for most of the bank’s business. 

“With an appetite for global solutions, and an affinity for emerging markets, they are a sophisticated client and the key decision makers in financial institutions, public sector and corporates,” says Mr Daher. Despite the geopolitical situation and resulting economic turbulence having a significant impact on clients and their businesses, Credit Suisse still foresees a high degree of opportunity and growth for the region. “The key to managing challenges is to remain close to clients,” says Mr Daher.

In Russia, where the bank has had an  onshore footprint since the opening of its Moscow office in 1993, wealth is gradually becoming more global. “UHNWIs are increasingly investing both directly and indirectly into international companies and markets,” says Dmitri Kushaev, Credit Suisse CEO for private banking in Russia. “Our relationship managers and specialists are locally and culturally anchored in Russia and understand the needs and requirements of Russian clients.” 

Entrepreneurs, mainly in the first generation of wealth, are a key client segment for the bank and particularly benefit from Credit Suisse’s “one bank” model and “dedicated investment offering”.

  • Best Private Bank in the US
  • Winner: JPMorgan Private Bank

JPMorgan has managed to snatch the much coveted award from Northern Trust,after an unbroken six-year spell for the Chicago-based bank. 

“In 2014, net new money increased in the US and we continue to see growth across our business,” says Kelly Cesare Coffey, CEO of JPMorgan’s US private bank. “This growth is driven in large part from the long-term relationships we have built with our clients.”

Net new money increased globally by $20.4bn, bringing total assets under management to $428bn at the end of 2014, of which about 80% was booked in North America. The US bank also has significantly increased its front-office headcount, by 25% in the country and by 75% internationally.

Wealth creation continues to be a key growth driver. “When you look in places such as northern California and southern Florida, not only is wealth being created rapidly, demographics are shifting,” says Ms Coffey.

In northern California, wealth growth is driven by the expansion of technology companies, resulting in an increase of younger clients. It is a different story in southern Florida, where growth is coming from international businesses increasing their presence, rising real estate prices, baby boomers and retirees. 

The bank has continued to invest in staff who understand local dynamics, and have expertise of client sectors, such as technology and healthcare. By bringing together expertise across investments, banking, credit, philanthropy, trust and estate planning, clients’ needs are looked at from every angle, says Ms Coffey, and clients are given the “most comprehensive advice and solutions”.

“Our core belief is that when you do the right thing for clients, they will continue to entrust you with more of their assets,” she adds.

Rejecting criticism about the bank’s standardised product offering globally, with little regional variation, particularly in Asia, Ms Coffey states that while it starts with the bank’s view on global markets, advice is customised to each client’s specific situation and needs. “Being a global private bank, we are getting first-hand insights from our teams and clients around the world,” she says. 

Having teams on the ground in Asia, for example, means not only can they help clients in the region, but they can also use what is learned locally to create better solutions for clients in other parts of the world who are looking to invest in Asia, believes Ms Coffey. 

  • Best Private Bank in Latin America
  • Best Private Bank in Portugal
  • Winner: Santander Private Banking

Private banking is a people business – something that Santander claims to take very seriously.

“The banker is the key, with a goal to know in-depth the customer, helping in taking investment decisions, and being close in the follow-up of the investment portfolio, establishing a confidence relationship in the long term,” says Gonzalo Algorri, group director of global private banking at Santander. 

For this reason, training is fundamental, not only from a technical point of view, but also in the use of communication skills. Resources are dedicated to tailor-made programmes for banks at leading universities. In addition, the bank develops in-house training in which professionals share their experiences and knowledge. 

The bank has also developed a technology platform to allow managers to track their clients’ needs, with ‘cutting-edge’ tools that put features of the advisory model at the disposal of the client. 

“Our tools help bankers to manage client portfolios giving them information, alerts and all the data they need to provide tailor-made solutions every time,” says Mr Algorri. “Customers feel comfortable when they notice that Santander Private Banking has enough material and human resources for developing a personalised and highly specialised management of their capital.”

In product terms, the emphasis is on creating solutions to meet clients’ financial needs. The current interest rate scenario sees increasing client demand for credit operations, either for tax reasons or to undertake new investments. 

Santander achieved growth of more than 22% last year in Latin America. Business in Brazil is growing by 23.3%; in Mexico at 17.3%; in Chile at 25% and in Spain at 8.4%.

“Our commercial business model adapts to local regulations in every country where we have presence,” says Mr Algorri. “For instance, in Latin America we have anticipated the regulatory changes that have been implemented in selling procedures.”

  • Best Private Bank in Brazil
  • Winner: Itaú Private Bank

Stagnant gross domestic product growth and a declining stock market have negatively impacted wealth creation in the largest economy in Latin America –Brazil –and this is heavily affecting investors’ behaviour. With inflation and interest rates rising, in 2014 clients invested most new money in tax-exempt products offered mainly by public financial institutions. 

Economic and political instability in the country is causing strong market volatility, with currency depreciation, and further interest rate and inflation rises expected.

“The biggest challenge we face is to keep clients’ focus in this volatile market,” says Flavio Souza, CEO of Itaú Private Bank, which manages more than 226bn reais ($58bn) in client assets. Clients tend to forget the benefits of long-term strategic allocation in this environment, adds Mr Souza, saying: “Our team of advisors stays very close to clients in order to bring discipline to the asset allocation.”

Given the high interest rate in Brazil (14.25%), the bank’s four recommended model portfolios have a very conservative bias towards fixed income, with the most aggressive profile having just 30% exposure to equities. 

Despite the challenges, Itaú Private Bank kept its market share at 26% in Brazil, and achieved a 59% increase in net profit and a cost-to-income ratio of 69% last year. The plan is to further invest “to consolidate several important initiatives” the bank has been implementing for several years. 

“All of them have the primary goal of getting closer to clients and boosting our efficiency,” says Mr Souza. These include improving investment research and advisory services, enhancing the team’s qualifications and digital experience, while maintaining high standards in risk management and compliance.

The main source of growth for the bank comes from referrals from Itaú Unibanco’s mass affluent and corporate divisions. While in Brazil the growth is organic, in Chile and Colombia the bank expects to have the approval by local authorities to merge Itaú with Corpbanca, a large commercial bank in Chile and Colombia. “Chile and Colombia are our target markets for the next couple of years,” he says.

Itaú Private Bank has significant operations in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, and is developing its presence in Peru, Colombia and Mexico.  

  • Best Private Bank in China
  • Winner: ICBC

In March 2008, ICBC received the first private banking licence issued by the China Banking Regulatory Commission and was encouraged to lead the way in this field. By the end of 2014, it had more than 43,000 private banking clients – a 26% increase on  2013. 

In addition to the 36 private banking centres set up in the major cities in China, ICBC Private Banking has established 400 service centres in second-tier cities on the mainland, and  is also expanding worldwide, offering private banking services in 14 countries and regions such as Hong Kong, Singapore, France, the US, Australia, Argentina and Macau. 

China’s wealth management industry is characterised by strong growth, with customer demand for diversified products across different asset classes. 

ICBC Private Banking holds a leading position in researching and developing its own products, which is helpful in this fiercely competitive market. Eighty percent of ICBC’s financial products are developed in house and experts have seized on market opportunities, having launched a number of competitive  products.

ICBC Private Banking also claims to be the first Chinese bank to have established a globally recognised investment fund platform overseas, with the launch of the ICBC Private Banking Global Investment Fund Series Sicav-SIF in Luxembourg.

  • Best Private Bank in India
  • Winner: Kotak Wealth Management

“With 15 years’ experience and a wide range of wealth management solutions, Kotak is the largest player in India by a significant margin,” says Jaideep Hansraj, head of wealth management and priority banking at Kotak Mahindra Bank. Its client list includes 44% of India’s top 100 families, according to the Forbes listing from 2012.

Recently, the bank has altered its business model’s mainstay from a transaction-oriented to an advisory approach, to remove any doubt in the investor’s mind about potential conflicts of interest. A fixed advisory fee helps maintain revenues in an environment of increased allocation to lower margin asset classes. 

“We believe that no single asset class tends to perform consistently over a long period and a high-net-worth individual needs to have access to various asset classes, investment styles, themes and tenures,” says Mr Hansraj. 

Offerings are customised to clients’ profiles and investment objectives. Kotak offers financial solutions through a transaction-based investment approach or the asset-advisory approach. The bank is particularly proud of what it claims is “one of the most premium” credit card propositions offered by invitation to eminent clients.

 Kotak offers family office services to ultra-high-net-worth investors, providing comprehensive financial solutions that it says go beyond investments. “Through Kotak Mahindra Trusteeship Services we offer estate planning services that deal with succession planning by creating private family trusts,” says Mr Hansraj. 

  • Best Private Bank in Australia
  • Winner: Westpac Private Bank

At Westpac Private Bank – part of BT Financial Group, the wealth management arm of The Westpac Group – last year’s growth was largely driven by a more flexible engagement model with clients and by the recognition that most of them are self-directed in nature. 

The new approach, based on ‘psychographic’ research, included aligning private bankers to clients based on their personality, values and attitude (or psychographics), and a faster development of the bank’s direct investment capabilities. A ‘comprehensive’ wealth curriculum up-skilled private bankers around both technical know-how and ‘soft skills’. 

Total assets under management rose 11% to A$26.4bn ($19.15bn). Net new money was up by A$2.6bn, an increase of 50% year on year. “Self-directed clients are higher in Australia as compared with Europe, but likely less than Asia,” says Jane Watts, general manager of BT private wealth.

More than 60% of the bank’s clients tend to demonstrate ‘controller’ behaviours, rather than being delegators. “We anticipate this segment to continue to grow faster than other behavioural segments, driven by increased digital capabilities, market volatility and recent well-publicised scrutiny of the comprehensive advice business,” adds Ms Watts.

Last year, the Australian bank launched a trader-assisted markets desk called ‘Private Wealth Markets’, providing “insight, experience and execution capabilities of an institutional dealing desk for self-directed, wholesale, high-net-worth clients”.

A custodial investment platform allowing clients to invest in global funds with a thematic approach was also introduced. 

Digital capabilities were improved too. “Digital communication and immediate digital engagement is even more important for self-directed clients,” says Ms Watts. 

The bank’s clients can now make decisions and execute transactions on the go, 24/7, through iPad and mobile. They can also use their mobile phone to pay for goods and services via debit or credit card.

Last year, the institution broadened global and local investment opportunities available to clients in partnership with fund management groups Ward Ferry, Allard Partners Management and Pengana Capital. It also introduced bespoke opportunities in real estate and foreign exchange.

In Australia, ‘pre-retirees and prime-of-life’ segments represent key growth segments for private banking. Professional investors are also becoming an attractive client group, as the service sector grows to counterbalance the decline in the resources sector.

The growth potential for private banking is remarkable in Australia, where more than 60% of high-net-worth individuals do not have a private banking relationship according to Westpac. “The main challenge is to continue to show the non-relationship managed high-net-worth clients the value of a relationship managed private banking solution,” says Ms Watts.

  • Best Private Bank in New Zealand
  • Winner: BNZ Private Bank

BNZ has rolled out an enterprise-wide wealth strategy aimed at accelerating its growth rate, while improving financial strength and risk management, and also enhancing service levels to clients.

Donna Nicolof, head of BNZ Wealth & Private Bank, says 2014 “was a year of significant investment in people, capabilities and simplification”. This simplification, she says, was about “removing roadblocks and obstacles that inhibited our private bankers from having conversations with more clients, forming closer strategic relationships with group companies and streamlining core processes”.

A key theme was about “empowering” private bankers to have more insightful conversations with clients, and build confidence among other bankers within the BNZ Partners network to have “a wealth conversation” with the private banker, and talk about more than just banking solutions with their clients. In addition to the private bank, the BNZ Partners network incorporates institutional, commercial, corporate, property and agribusiness divisions. 

This strategy was supported by the introduction of a ‘balanced scorecard approach’ which has encouraged private bankers to have ‘advice-led conversations’ with their clients, as well as rewarding customer focus alongside financial and compliance measures. 

“This has led to a better understanding of client needs and has increased BNZ’s ability to meet more of them,” says Ms Nicolof, explaining that private bankers refer their clients to, or call upon, other banking specialists from across the BNZ Partners network to best service all of their needs.

One of the bank’s highlights in 2014 in terms of performance measures was the 85% growth in operating profit, also thanks to improved client segmentation. 

The institution, which has reorganised a number of core processes to bring greater efficiencies, is focused on further streamlining to provide private bankers with “more time in the market, and less time behind desks”. Upcoming initiatives include centralisation and automation of portfolio rebalancing and re-investment of maturing bonds. The bank is also looking to completely revamp its client review process.

By the end of 2015, BNZ will have transitioned all of its personal clients to its new digital platform, which makes organising and managing money easier. 

  • Best Private Bank in Hong Kong
  • Winner: HSBC Private Bank

HSBC has laid down a policy of capturing money in home and ‘priority’ markets, with inter-group collaboration crucial to expansion.

Even though net new money was 46% down during 2014, HSBC still saw $14bn flow into private banking, with a stunning $10bn of this sourced from the group’s efficient internal referrals machine.

A recent internal reorganisation means private banking sits side by side with global and commercial banking, within the private clients group, facilitating more introductions to and from private banking.

Asia and the Middle East are both prioritised growth markets, with the former now home to almost one-third of the bank’s $365bn in private client assets. Globally, on a group basis and in private banking, nearly 80% of profits are coming from Asia.

The operations in Hong Kong and nearby Asian cities seem a world away from Switzerland, where a raft of historical issues, relating to clients acquired from Safra Republic bank in 1999, has recently been exposed to public scrutiny. 

HSBC admits it was slow to properly integrate the acquired business and subject it to the same internal controls as its existing, directly sourced clients.

Bank insiders say they have been “de-risking” since 2008, scaling down business booked through Geneva, from 30,000 to 10,000 clients, while focusing more on business channelled through London, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Rather than continuing to accept business from 150 countries, which was the situation 10 years ago, this has been slimmed down to nearer 50, for regulatory, compliance and business reasons.

  • Best Private Bank in Singapore
  • Best Private Bank for Innovation
  • Winner: DBS Bank

It has been a busy time for DBS, integrating the Asian wealth management franchise of French bank Société Générale into the Singapore-headquartered operation. 

Spreading of large fixed costs across a much larger client base means a significant reduction in cost-to-income ratios, improving efficiency and boosting profits by 28% during 2014. This is coupled with ‘continuous automation’ of all internal processes, including a desire to lift the quality of all digital capabilities.

Whereas the private banking business lacked scale back in 2010, it is now attracting high-quality recruits and building a reputation for technological innovation and customer service under wealth management boss Su Shan Tan.

Not seen as a serious employer before the 2008 financial crisis compared with foreign banks, DBS’s part state ownership – 29% is owned by the state’s financial arm, Temasek – has since proved an advantage and it has become a destination of choice for private bankers, both on the investment and business side. ”

The word on the street is that Ms Tan has thrown off her local ‘celebrity banker’ status and made her name as a leader of the fast-growing private banking unit, active in the mass-affluent, high-net-worth and ultra-wealthy spaces, augmented by a team of capable lieutenants specialising in investments and technology.

Net new money more than doubled during 2014 to $17bn, with a remarkable ratio of just 17 clients to each relationship manager. Digital transformation has been at the core of this growth, although commentators claim that the innovative iWealth Advisor system for relationship managers, powered by IBM Watsons and watched avidly by rival banks, has yet to prove itself. So far it has been available to Singapore-based bankers only, but the plan is to roll it out through other jurisdictions next year.

Ms Tan has previously identified the likes of Alibaba, Ten Cent and Chinese search engine provider Baidu as the wild cards to watch in Asian private banking and it is her aim to anticipate their threat by improving private banking service levels to match those provided by the non-financial sector.

  • Best Private Bank in Malaysia
  • Best private Bank for Islamic Services
  • Winner: Maybank

With a presence in all 10 Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) countries, Maybank established a Private Wealth Centre of Excellence in Singapore in late 2013, headed by group head of private wealth, Alvin Lee.  

The goal is to serve both local and offshore clients wanting to bank in the city-state, targeting those with at least RM3m ($712.4m) in investable assets.

The Premier Wealth team serves mass-affluent clients with a minimum of RM250,000 in investable assets. “The streamlining of Maybank’s brand and service platform with the introduction of Private Wealth and Premier Wealth was a key achievement for the bank in strengthening our regional presence and brand identity,” says Datuk Lim Hong Tat, head of group community financial services and CEO of Maybank Singapore.

The Malaysian institution grew its assets under management by 13% in 2014 to RM82bn, partly due to the enhancement of its portfolio management. 

Malaysian high-net-worth individuals currently invest more than half of their overseas portfolios in the Asia-Pacific region, and the bank has strengthened its regional offering to meet this demand. Two new core funds launched by Maybank Asset Management under the Asean passporting scheme contributed to growing client assets, as they combine portfolio stability with flexibility of reacting to market conditions.

The number of clients and net new money also increased by double-digit figures in 2014. “The private banking space offers immense growth potential, not only within Malaysia but also within the region,” says Mr Lim. “We see great promise within our key markets, particularly Singapore and Indonesia.”

At the bank, Islamic assets under management rose almost 40% over the past year, driven by clients’ demand for sharia-compliant credit and capital market products. Maybank’s ‘Islamic first’ policy offers clients access to a suite of wealth management solutions.

The bank remains one of the top three underwriters in the Bloomberg Global Islamic Bonds League Table. “Our wealthy clientele last year had access to deals such as the Exim Bank $1bn Multi-Currency Sukuk issuance programme and Maybank Islamic Bank Subordinated Sukuk,” says Mr Lim. 

  • Best Private Bank in Indonesia
  • Winner: Bank Mandiri Wealth Management

Mandiri Wealth Management is well known in Indonesia for its brand name ‘Mandiri Prioritas’, one of the fastest growing priority banking services in the country, serving more than 36,000 customers and running more than Rp120,000bn ($8.86bn) in funds.

Over the year, Mandiri Prioritas has expanded its services by developing a private banking service, aiming for customers who will place funds of more than Rp20bn with the service.

As well as savings accounts and investment products, Mandiri Prioritas is supported by seven top investment management companies in Indonesia with more than 40 mutual fund products, and more partnerships are planned for the coming year. The majority of customer portfolios are still focused on third-party liabilities but the bank has been looking at each customer’s risk profile and preferences, using this opportunity to market investment products such as equity-based mutual funds, bonds and other higher fee products.

To provide customers with better advice, relationship managers will soon be equipped with a tablet application, enabling them to show a specific portfolio simulation to customers face to face or via other media.

Mandiri Prioritas is beginning to put more effort into succession planning and educating the second generation of its wealthy family clients.

  • Best Private Bank in Korea
  • Winner: Shinhan Bank

The private banking market in South Korea, as in the rest of Asia, is expanding rapidly, and Shinhan Private Wealth Management (Shinhan PWM) is making a big play to capture this growth. Private client numbers rose by 16% in 2014, while assets under management were up by a similar percentage. 

Private banking clients are grouped into three layers – affluent, high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals – with differing levels of service for each tier, but the bank is broadening what it offers to the lower levels of the wealth pyramid. 

“Shinhan is introducing differentiated private banking services for affluent clients whose assets are more than Won300m ($265,000) – we call them associate clients,” says Samuel Do, manager of the wealth management department at Shinhan PWM. Those with Won100m to Won300m are catered to through PWM lounges, 16 of which were opened in July 2015 to provide products and better asset management to customers, while premier lounges in retail branches are available to those at lower levels.

In South Korea, affluent individuals have a tendency to separate assets among several banks, and Shinhan is attempting to change this mindset by offering a broader and more intensive service. 

The low interest rates since the financial crisis have pushed investors away from deposits and towards investment products while attitudes to risk have changed, but the slowdown in China could have a big impact on the South Korean economy, according to Mr Do. “Most investors and high-net-worth individuals have invested large amount of capital in China through direct and indirect investment products, which may cause difficulties with maintaining clients’ profit margins and in managing funds,” he says.

  • Best Private Bank in Taiwan
  • Winner: Taipei Fubon Bank

Taipei Fubon Bank was the first domestic bank to establish private banking services in Taiwan, but has seen increased competition in recent years as other local banks launched their own services, while it also expects to see a growing threat from the non-banking sector. 

In 2014, Taipei Fubon decided to lower the minimum asset requirement for its private banking clients from T$30m ($928,000) to T$15m. “The goal was to provide these prospective clients with private banking services as early as possible, strengthen our relationships with them, quickly understand their needs, and gradually draw in their assets being managed by other banks,” says Morris Huang, the senior executive vice-president of Taipei Fubon Bank. 

The strategy appears to be working. A year on, the bank has 40% more clients with assets of $500,000 or more and total assets under management for this group is up by 20%. After lowering the threshold, the number of private banking clients had risen to 12,660 by the end of 2014, up from 4180 a year earlier. 

Maintaining client trust in a time of extreme volatility and considerable uncertainty has been a major priority, says Mr Huang, as has encouraging them to lower risk profiles. “To prevent the slowdown in China’s economy from affecting our clients, the bank began advising clients in the second half of 2014 to adjust their investment positions, including leaning more towards global or balanced funds or investing more in mature countries with relatively stable fundamentals and loose monetary policies,” he says.

  • Best Private Bank in Thailand
  • Winner: Siam Commercial Bank

Over the past 12 months, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) has broadened the scope of its advisory function to cover more ‘high alpha’ products by launching open architecture services onshore with Aberdeen Asset Management. 

The average client portfolio’s product mix has shifted from a 60:40 split between deposit and investment products to a 50:50 split. Using assets under management more effectively, SCB predicts growth in its private banking revenues of 30% to 35% over the previous year. The bank  is now looking to develop its offering offshore “with reputable houses”. 

Much emphasis has also been placed on staff training, with the establishment of wealth management programmes from the Wealth Management Institute in Singapore. 

“The quality and continuity of relationship managers are our key focus,” says Lalitphat Toranavikrai, head of private banking at SCB. “In advisory, the main emphasis is on adding capability to offer the full range of products. With the opening of our investment platform, clients will be able to invest without bias.”

While expanding the investment platform is important, relationship management is also the heart and soul of success in the private banking business, he claims. 

“We decided to build the Wealth Academy unit to develop talent in a SCB culture and foster commitment to a long-term career,” she says. “The Wealth Management Institute training programme is part of the academy set up to provide international standards. We take this step seriously and will ensure that each year SCB produces quality staff with a long-term commitment to take care of our high-value clients.”

  • Best Private Bank in Turkey
  • Winner: Akbank Private Banking

Akbank believes its business model sets it apart from its rivals. “High-net-worth clients have exceptional and sophisticated requirements,” explains Didem Bagrıaçık, its private banking senior vice-president. “Akbank Private Banking understands the needs, expectations, and risk profiles of these clients and provides them with a wide range of structured products through different markets.” 

In Turkey the bank is the only service provider that has its own strategy and investment team, who as well as executing trades with “the best possible price and timing”, also provides general advisory services exclusively to private banking clients, says Ms Bagrıaçık.

In the light of this strategy, in 2014 initiatives focused mostly on private sector bond issues, she explains. These products are for private banking customers who invest in fixed-income securities but are also willing to take risks up to a specific level. Last year, Akbank took part in 14 bond issues with a $150m nominal amount purchased by its clients.

“One of our new business models for attracting clients was building the sales management team in our headquarters,” says Ms Bagrıaçık. “Their ‘hunt’ enabled us to reach a significant number of new clients, although equally important were referrals from existing customers and special offers such as ‘member begets member’ campaigns.” 

Communication with current and prospective clients is managed both face to face and through other channels. “We got together with our clients via exclusive events such as special trips, global VIP events, art exhibits and projects with luxurious brands,” says Ms Bagrıaçık. 

Akbank Private Banking focuses on the core values of its target audience and the ‘emotional benefits’ of private banking. It considers personal wealth not as an individual quality belonging purely to the present. To ensure its sustainability for future generations, it began its ‘Next Generation Programme’, providing clients’ children aged 17 to 22 with know-how on responsibility of wealth, risk terminology, reputation and general banking.

  • Best Private Bank in Saudi Arabia
  • Winner: SABB Private Banking

Riyadh-based SABB – Saudi Arabia British Bank – an associated company of the HSBC Group, saw a fall in client numbers as the bank continued its de-risking exercise, whereby clients who were not suited to the private banking operation were shifted into other segments of the business. This practice was initiated in the final quarter of 2013, but in 2014 the decision was made to run this as a quarterly practice.

In 2014, the private banking unit was integrated within the wealth management operation, which was designed to give clients wider access to SABB’s branches, technology and services. 

There is a growing focus on sharia products and services at SABB, with clients encouraged to adopt Islamic banking. These products now make up 69% of assets under management, and over the past year SABB has launched sharia-compliant structured deposits, sukuk and mutual funds. Through HSBC Saudi Arabia, SABB launched the first sharia-compliant commodity fund. 

SABB considers sharia investments to be a form of socially responsible investing and also identifies private placement opportunities in areas such as education and healthcare for its clients.

  • Best Private Bank in the United Arab Emirates
  • Winner: National Bank of Abu Dhabi 

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) Private Banking has won the best private bank in the United Arab Emirates award for the fourth consecutive year.

Over this period, during which it has stepped up its efforts to become ‘the reference private bank for the Arab world’, NBAD has implemented initiatives to get closer to its clients by providing new investment solutions over a range of diversified platforms. It has also prioritised attracting top talent, 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 private banking businesses across four geographical areas – the UAE, Egypt, the UK and Switzerland – into one global team. 

“We believe our clients’ satisfaction is the key to long-term success for our business and look upon our clients as our best brand ambassadors to recommend NBAD within their personal network,” says Ashraf Mazahreh, NBAD’s head of private banking for UAE. 

A new initiative named ‘Influencers’ and ‘Strikers’ focuses on the nine service principles on how investors ‘think, do and be’. These initiatives reflect an investment in client journeys, aiming to ensure staff have a positive impact on customers, while being able to display their pride and passion.

“We grow and protect our clients’ wealth by tailoring our products to ensure they are competitive, aligned to the needs of clients and delivered efficiently,” says Mr Mazahreh. 

“To achieve our goals, we are in the throes of investing in wealth management IT solutions and technology across our global network, to ensure seamless integration between front-, middle- and back-office activities while regularly monitoring turnaround times and service standards.

  • Best Private Bank in Bahrain
  • Best Private Bank in Oman
  • Winner: Ahli United Bank

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC)  region is strategically well placed to grow in the coming years as a formal trade and tourism hub, as it prepares to host the World Expo in 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The boom in GCC has shielded the economy from volatility in an otherwise challenging post-2008 world.

Economic growth and the adoption of global compliance standards in family-run businesses has led to increased demand for wealth management capabilities by second-generation entrepreneurs. Ahli United Bank (AUB) has been growing its presence in Bahrain, the UK, Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It also has a 50:50 partnership in L&G Gulf and plans to launch a United Arab Emirates franchise out of Dubai International Financial Centre with a target to establish fully fledged banking businesses in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Switzerland.

AUB firmly believes asset management services with a proven track record are a key component of success and introduced open architecture via Allfunds Bank in 2010, working towards ‘best in class’ advisory services by tying up with globally recognised external advisors, such as  Mercer and Morningstar.

Many of the bank’s product launches are a result of client requirement discussions conducted by relationship and product development teams. 

In Oman, the bank seeded its flagship, Al Hilal Mena Fund, in July 2013 to present multi-asset investment advisory services. The fund’s performance has delivered ‘superior returns’ to clients in the region. AUB UK has set up real estate fund management services for its regional client base. 

“We pride ourselves on providing our high-net-worth clients with the cross-border reach and capability they seek, thanks to our long-established presence in London as well as in key Middle East and north Africa markets, combined with the personalised attention and trusted advisory they expect from their local private bankers,” says Prakash Mohan, group head at AUB.  

He highlights the 21-months-ahead-of-schedule sale of assets held by the AUB UK Student Accommodation fund, which generated an equity multiple of 1.8, a testament to the bank’s on-the-ground understanding and expertise in sourcing assets and good return investments for clients.

  • Best Private Bank in Lebanon
  • Winner: Audi Private Bank

With Middle Eastern investors somewhat sceptical and reluctant to trade in difficult markets, brokerage fees have unsurprisingly decreased. Yet Bank Audi Private Bank says it has maintained its profitability by closely monitoring costs and using expertise in the Lebanese and Middle East and north Africa markets to propose specific instruments as an alternative to investing in “disruptive international markets”.

One of the bank’s main focuses this year has been to enhance customer service and transparency by applying new strict regulatory rules.

The Bank Audi Group created its private banking business line in 2014 under the name of Bank Audi Private Bank.  Through the synergy between its private banking sister entities in Switzerland, Lebanon and the Gulf region, Bank Audi Private Bank’s mission and vision are to offer its clients access to all markets and instruments as well as real estate and trust services.

“Despite complex financial markets in 2015, Audi Private Bank has continued to deliver high-quality investment services, staying in close touch with our clients and offering them tailored investment strategies,” says Toufic Aouad, Audi Private Bank’s general manager. “We are confident the private bank is well positioned to capture future growth in Lebanon and the region, thanks to our profile of international standards coupled with local insights.”

  • Best Private Bank in Switzerland
  • Winner: Pictet & CIE

The Pictet Group’s assets under management rose by SFr44bn ($46bn) in 2014, a growth rate of more than 11%, while staff numbers were up by 6%. The bank now has 26 offices in 15 countries, including 15 in Europe, and serves clients in more than 150 different countries. Asia, where the bank has been present for almost 30 years, is of particular importance, with 170 employees at its Hong Kong and Singapore offices. Despite this growing international presence, its home market of Switzerland remains a priority.

“Switzerland retains a number of advantages that are key for the success of a private banking centre and which clients highly value,” says Jacques de Saussure, senior managing partner at Pictet. He highlights the country’s experienced workforce, the stable and reliable political system, strong currency and sound public finances, all factors that reassure clients in turbulent times. 

“Also, despite regulatory changes that banking secrecy has undergone over the past years, the culture of discretion and confidentiality and respect for personal sphere are very much part of Swiss society’s DNA and clients value that. Indeed, privacy is a value and tax compliance makes it all the more legitimate,” adds Mr de Saussure.

In January 2014, mainly because of Pictet’s growing international presence, its management was transferred from an unlimited liability to a corporate partnership, and the bank believes its new legal structure makes it more transparent.  

“Central principles to our business model include our independence, our exclusive focus on wealth and asset management and organic growth,” says Mr de Saussure. “These characteristics, which set Pictet apart from its peers, effectively limit the potential for conflicts of interest and provide the group with stability as well as recurring and diversified revenue sources.”

  • Best Private Bank in the UK
  • Winner: Coutts

The recent announcement of the disposal of its Swiss private bank, with SF32bn ($33.5bn) of assets under management, acquired by Union Bancaire Privee, underlines Coutts’ ongoing strategy to focus on the UK market. 

“Concentrating on banking in the UK and Channel Islands allows us to dedicate our best resources to serving the needs of our clients,” says Michael Morley, Coutts’ chief executive, who adds that the bank remains committed to building the international client base out of London. 

Early in 2014, its parent RBS committed to ongoing investment in the UK bank, recognising “its multi-year efforts to become a modern private bank and wealth manager”, and combined Coutts with the RBS Commercial Banking Division. This partnership has already brought “fresh opportunities to clients from both areas”, says Mr Morley.  

Taking a holistic approach to clients, the bank’s wealth managers and planners rely on the expertise of the Coutts Institute, established in 2005, to address sensitive issues spanning succession and philanthropy. 

A key differentiating factor in customer service, says Mr Morley, is “Coutts’ unique community, which facilitates the exchange of best practice and collaboration”. The low portfolio manager-to-client ratio (40:1) also contributes to high customer satisfaction, as do regular intimate client events and the bank’s 24/7 telephone service.

In the technology space, key developments in 2014 comprised the incorporation of investments into Coutts online statements, with graphical reporting offering higher transparency of performance and fees, the introduction of paperless reporting and improvement of secure messaging between clients and advisors. The bank also introduced an online concierge service for Coutts’ Silk Card holders.

The bank’s up-to-date core banking platform, states Mr Morley, is important in ensuring private bankers have the best possible client insight and allows them to personalise client interactions and respond in a timely manner.

“Technology is crucial, though in isolation it won’t be the differentiator – it is how it is applied which makes the difference,” he says. “Long-term success will still be driven by the trust and depth of relationships, quality of advice and proposition.”

  • Best Private Bank in Germany
  • Winner: Berenberg 

At 28.8%, Berenberg’s return on equity is almost five times higher than the average for German banks, which stood at 5.9% in 2013, according to the institution.  

Founded in 1590, Berenberg is still an owner-managed bank, and in its 425-year life it has had just 38 partners. 

Last year, the bank set up a chief investment office with 35 professionals for its private clients, opened offices in San Francisco and Chicago, and expanded its presence in London. This continued drive to extend its services sees Berenberg receiving the German award for the seventh time.

“Successful companies are characterised by shaping the future in a vibrant way against the backdrop of their own history while at the same time maintaining a steady eye on the future,” says Hans-Walter Peters, the spokesman of Berenberg’s managing partners. 

“Over the past 20 years, our company has managed the transition from being a private Hamburg bank that worked predominantly in the credit business to an internationally operating consultancy firm that focuses on securities.” 

Today, there are 1250 employees at 19 locations – three-and-a-half times as many as before the turn of the millennium. Private banking operates from eight branches in Germany and from offices in London, Zurich and Geneva. Investment banking has 80 equity analysts  – one of the largest teams in Europe – and worked on 24 initial public offerings and capital increases last year, more than any other bank in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Berenberg doubled its assets under management during the past seven years to e36.1bn.

  • Best Private Bank in Italy
  • Winner: UniCredit Private Banking

The largest private bank in Italy with a98bn in client assets, and the winner of this award for three years running, UniCredit Private Banking has launched several initiatives aimed at growing its assets under management.  

These included the introduction of a new compensation scheme, which gives a prominent role to growth results in the assessment of the advisors’ performance and consequently their annual bonus. A specific training programme was brought in to promote ‘growth attitude’ among private bankers. Increased synergies with corporate banking resulted in the selection of 1200 Italian big companies, with the purpose of developing relationships with main stakeholders. This specific partnership originated net sales of about a500m for UniCredit Private Banking in 2014.

A new customer relationship management tool improved the management of prospective clients. 

As a result of these initiatives, last year 65% of bankers generated net positive sales, versus 45% on average in the past few years.

In 2014, assets under management surged by 7% to more than a91bn, including net new money of a3.2bn – double the amount of net new money in 2013. Client satisfaction has also reached historical highs, according to surveys carried out independently by an external provider.

“We had a brilliant year for investment performance,” says Salvatore Pisconti, head of private banking, Italy, at UniCredit, claiming that the increase in assets and number of clients testify to client trust. 

The bank’s advisory approach is based on the holistic approach of ‘real-life banking’, aimed at understanding client’s life goals and providing solutions to achieve them. 

“In a complex world, clients look for one-stop-shop institutions,” says Mr Pisconti. The bank will continue to invest in enhancing private bankers’ competence and skills, financial planning and consultancy/lending solutions. These are particularly relevant given the pick-up of the domestic real estate sector, adds Mr Pisconti.

With 50% of potential private banking clients still not served by specialised institutions, growth opportunities in Italy are significant. A key challenge is utilising the technology potential available within the  UniCredit Group to improve the client multi-channel strategy, according to Mr Pisconti. 

Several projects in 2014 had the goal of improving customer experience and proximity, reducing costs while attempting to meet the needs of increasingly tech-savvy clients and capture the next generation. The bank broadened the investment instruments tradable through its remote advisory tool via internet banking, which enables bankers to advise clients remotely. It created a feature enabling clients to send, receive and archive documents in a secure area of their online banking portfolio. It also introduced a paperless advisory process, which allows clients to use a digital signature on specific contracts.

In order to strengthen its services to the ultra-wealthy, UniCredit has recently announced the creation of a new firm, specifically dedicated to serving clients with more than a5m in financial assets.

  • Best Private Bank in Austria
  • Winner: Schoellerbank 

Schoellerbank says that the 12 locations in which it operates make it the only private bank in Austria to have a widespread presence throughout the country. The bank has also leveraged existing relationships within the UniCredit Group to gain new clients from central and eastern European countries. 

In 2013, the bank set up a new segmentation model, and has achieved major growth in assets with top clients. More than 90% of revenues come from fee-based wealth advisory services. In 2014 performance-linked management fees for segregated accounts were high owing to benign markets, and to secure these high revenues, the bank introduced a new fee model for segregated accounts in January 2015.

Its strong focus on growing segregated accounts and investment funds has been rewarded by a 13% increase in volumes over the year. 

“Our experts invest with an eye towards long-term, sustainable prospects rather than fast, risky returns,” says Franz Witt-Dörring, chairman of the executive board at Schoellerbank. “The success of our rigorous and transparent selection process, the Schoellerbank StarRating, is reflected in the growing number of customers trusting in our asset management. Managed products already account for about two-thirds of total assets under management.”

Another reason behind the bank’s success is constant innovation, says Mr Witt-Dörring. The bank’s fund management company, Schoellerbank Invest, issued the first umbrella fund in Austria as well as the first fund with inflation protection.

“Our business concept is confirmed by the results of our annual customer satisfaction assessment,” says Mr Witt-Dörring, who says 2014 satisfaction levels are well above industry average.

  • Best Private Bank in Belgium
  • Winner: KBC Private Banking

KBC has won the award for Belgium for the second consecutive year, after two ‘highly commended’ nominations in 2012 and 2013. 

“The combination of increasing client satisfaction, assets under management growth and excellent financial results allows us to invest in a high-quality private banking service,” says Erwin Schoeters, general manager, retail and private banking, at KBC. “In our search for excellence, we have not lowered our investment threshold of a1m and, in doing so, remain one of the few private banking entities in Belgium with this threshold. As a result, the number of clients per relationship manager is limited and allows for a very personalised and broad service.”

The average holding per client has increased over time to a2m, and the typical relationship manager has no more than 90 clients.

The bank has introduced Regional Advice Centres that clients can contact after office hours, but these are not call centres,  rather they are staffed by regular advisors who offer portfolio advice, and the option of giving orders by telephone.

Estate planning services are offered to all clients, and details are fed into a database of clients’ estates, so that steps can be taken should legislation change. The bank says this is important, as its tax and legal advice is a significant factor in determining overall client satisfaction, leading it to boost meetings to discuss estate-related matters by 54% from 1112 in 2012 to 1712 in 2014.

  • Best Private Bank in Luxembourg
  • Winner: ING Private Banking

At ING, years of preparation to changes in the regulatory landscape have paid off. Efforts to adapt to the end of private banking secrecy and the global move to transparency, sealed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Common Reporting Standard to combat tax evasion, have enabled the private bank, winner of this award for the third year running, to “strongly limit asset outflows,” according to Sandrine De Vuyst, head of private banking at ING Luxembourg.

The strengthening of client on-boarding measures, started in 2009, as well as the bank’s wealth analysis and planning department have given the bank an ‘in-depth’ understanding of wealth creation and clients’ tax compliance, and have facilitated adherence to new reporting standards.

The lure of the Grand Duchy as a jurisdiction to hide undeclared assets has definitely waned, and as with other offshore centres, there has been a clear shift in the types of clients the country serves. This has changed from the mass-affluent segments of neighbouring countries typically banking there to minimise taxes, to the wealthier, more international and demanding clientele, attracted by Luxembourg’s cross-border, multi-lingual, multi-cultural expertise.

“We remain focused on the increasing sophisticated needs of both the local and international ultra-high-net-worth individuals [UHNWIs],” says Ms De Vuyst. “By leveraging on ING’s universal banking capabilities, our innovative lending along with an accommodative and stable legal environment in Luxembourg, we believe ING Private Banking Luxembourg is well positioned to handle the growing demand of innovative and sophisticated wealth planning solutions of the UHNWIs.”

Luxembourg has been elected as the centre of expertise of the ING Group, to serve wealthy clients with cross-border needs. Last year, the private bank went through a restructuring process that resulted in the segmentation of private bankers as ‘hunters’ and ‘farmers’. The hunters seek clients in new markets, including central, eastern and southern Europe, Morocco and UK non-domiciled clients. The farmers, more senior advisors, serve existing clients in the core markets of Luxembourg, Netherlands, France and Belgium. 

Both groups are supported by a team of business specialists in credit, risk management and wealth planning.  

To face increasing pressure on profits, the private bank has strengthened internal collaboration with the group’s internal businesses, including financial markets, business banking and commercial banking. “The aim is to further expand banking relationships with UHNW clients into other lines of business, thereby spreading the costs of client acquisition and retention,” says Ms De Vuyst. 

The institution has also developed investment and service solutions for specific client segments, such as family offices, professional athletes and global expatriates.

  • Best Private Bank in the Netherlands
  • Winner: ABN Amro MeesPierson

ABN Amro, which has taken the runner-up slot in Europe and lifted the Netherlands private banking crown, gives the impression of still being a work in progress.

With the forthcoming initial public offering now having received clearance, there is a feeling internally that the bank will enter a new stage of development, once it becomes freed from temporary stewardship by the Dutch government.

That said, there has been no lack of innovation at ABN Amro, and client assets rose by 13% to $210bn, with massive inflows of $6.1bn during 2014. Not only has the bank been holding successful ‘next generation’ philanthropy and entrepreneurship seminars on home soil, in addition to start-up bootcamps, but it is also continuing to spread its private banking tentacles through neighbouring countries and further afield in the Middle East and Asia, where a discretionary portfolio management service has been introduced.

No slouch when it comes to technological transformation, ABN reports that 30% of clients use its private banking app daily. According to Aite Group’s Alois Pirker, one of the judging panel, the group started a mindset shift about five years ago, when it launched Dialogues House, an internal ‘innovation laboratory’, fostering external start-ups around the banking sector

While this initiative did lead to some successes, more important has been a realisation that the same opportunities and processes should be opened up internally, so that bank staff can put forward ideas and solutions and bring new concepts to the private banking offer.

“Providing relationship managers and clients with new tools can be a great opportunity to better service our clients in this new environment,” says Hein van der Loo, head of strategy and business development at ABN Amro Private Banking International.

Indeed, the bank is facing up to an existential threat, as its management in Amsterdam feels that if wealth managers fail to shape up to fast-paced digitisation, they cease to exist. The technology is there to be exploited, but it must be correctly utilised, says Mr van der Loo.

“Some of these tools – if used in the right manner – can help private banks and wealth managers to service clients faster, more pro-actively and with a more tailor-made approach,” he adds.

  • Best Private Bank in Monaco
  • Winner: Société Générale Private Banking

Société Générale Private Banking appears to have pulled back from ambitions for a full-scale global operation, challenging the likes of UBS and Credit Suisse in private banking, to pursue a more selective regional portfolio.

This focuses on its home market of France, a healthy franchise for expatriate-led business in the southern, sun-kissed principality of Monaco, an expanding European business and deeper penetration in some of the bank’s traditional emerging economies of north Africa and the Middle East. 

This gradual refocus is being augmented by the total revamp of SocGen’s technology architecture, concentrating on reshaping not just the ebanking offerings, but transforming all areas of client contact right across the business.

Jean-Francois Mazaud, head of Société Générale Private Banking, emphasises this latest focus on core markets through strong regional networks, now that the more peripheral Asian private banking business has been offloaded to Singapore’s DBS. This marks a major change for the French bank, which until recently saw Asia, and Singapore in particular, as a key hub for future growth.

“Our presence in Monaco is a key part of this strategy, alongside France, the UK, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Middle East,” says Mr Mazaud, who also highlights SocGen’s presence in the Czech Republic, Croatia and Morocco, where clients are serviced through partnerships with the group’s retail branch banking networks. 

In Monaco, the bank acknowledges its international clientele of high-net-worth individuals, including a substantial coterie of Russians, by offering a combination of specialist expertise and a tailor-made approach to investments and structuring.

“Our know-how is particularly recognised in the financing of yachts, private jets and prestigious residences,” says Mr Mazaud, who has developed product and service ranges aimed specifically for clients in central and eastern Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean. 

  • Best Private Bank in Sweden
  • Best Private Bank in Baltic Countries
  • Winner: SEB Private Banking

While the costs of providing financial advice are increasing owing to regulation, forcing private banks to rethink operating models and sometimes abandon certain client segments or services, SEB Private Banking has made a strategic decision to operate a full-service offering. But much thought is going into how to deliver its value proposition in a swift and efficient way. 

“We are committed to serve clients over generations and across borders,” says Martin Gärtner, global head of private banking at SEB. “However, client needs are evolving and we are continuously reinventing ourselves to continue to provide wealth solutions beyond the investment sphere. We have and will continue to have a full-service offering.”

Client expectations are increasingly focused on quality of service and on the convenience of the interfaces with the bank to do banking anywhere, anytime and anyhow, he continues, saying: “This is why we have innovated and added a number of new digital channels and services. This has been our focus for some years now and will continue to be so going forward.”

But even though digital channels and new techniques are important, Mr Gärtner firmly believes that face-to-face interaction must remain at the heart of the relationship building with clients and that it is critical when helping them with complex problems or important family events.

As a Nordic player servicing Scandinavian and Baltic clients domestically or following them abroad, it is not SEB Private Banking’s strategy to compete with international private banks for wealthy Americans or Asians, but to grow in target segments. This strategy has been successful in recent years with high customer satisfaction, according to SEB.

  • Best Private Bank in Denmark
  • Winner: Danske Bank

Conscious of the increasingly competitive environment, Danske Bank has launched an aggressive programme to improve its business model. “Our main focus in 2014 was getting ‘fit for fight’,” says Marlene Nørgaard, head of private banking for Denmark at Danske Bank. The strategy aims at freeing employees’ time to enable them to focus on value-adding activities, ensuring correct segmentation of clients, and matching their needs and requirements with a relevant value proposition.

“There are more and more players in the market so competition is getting tougher,” notes Ms Nørgaard. “In order to win market share, we need to sharpen our value proposition and target our customers individually.”

The bank focuses on clients with at least DKr5m ($760,000) in assets, and estimates to have a market share of 40% in Denmark. 

Last year, it developed a holistic advisory tool, Wealth Planner, to give customers a full understanding of their financial situation, including risk, tax and liquidity issues. The tool, which incorporates the most frequently used company structures, investment products and tax wrappers in the countries where the bank operates, enables advisors and clients to evaluate trade-offs, such as risk allocation across asset classes and liabilities. 

The institution is also focusing on improving the digital customer experience, and is developing solutions for on-boarding new clients or digitally signing documents. Investments in mobile banking solutions have enabled customers to check their finances, pay bills, trade stocks and bonds while on the go. 

“Innovation is an integral part of our DNA,” says Ms Nørgaard. “Continuing to focus and develop digital and mobile solutions will be essential in order to maintain our role as one of the top players in the market,” she says.

  • Best Private Bank in Finland
  • Best Private Bank in Norway
  • Best Private Bank in the Nordics
  • Winner: Nordea Private Banking

In 2014, Nordea attracted remarkable inflows of net new money across the Nordics (a8.3bn) bringing total assets under management to about a73bn. “It was a record year, which also confirms that our strategy is working well,” says Gunn Wærsted, head of Nordea Wealth Management.

The bank has strengthened and developed next-generation services and enhanced on-boarding of new clients. It has also worked “intensively” on customer acquisition, by up-skilling advisors and improving tools available to them. 

“Finally, we have focused on ‘Meetings Worth Sharing’, a concept developed together with customers, where they actively recommend us to their network. This has created a large number of new clients and prospects,” says Mr Wærsted.

Over the past couple of years, the bank has raised the asset threshold for private banking customers. This has had a negative impact on the net number of clients overall, although they still increased by 1% last year, but has lowered the cost-to-income ratio.

Clients below the new threshold, which ranges from about a200,000 in Denmark to a500,000 in Sweden, are best served by the retail banking division, which has strengthened the value proposition for the premium segment, says Mr Wærsted. 

A solid process is in place in all the Nordic countries for referring clients when they approach the private banking threshold.

Today, the bank’s focus is on upping the share of recurring – i.e. non-transactional income – which in 2014 represented 60% of total income.

The Nordic institution has identified key areas of improvements for the future. “We are investing in tools, processes and competencies to build both personal and digital relationships with our customers,” says Mr Wærsted, not playing down challenges in this journey, mainly linked to legacy systems.

“Nordea Bank has been built through several mergers, so our technical legacy is pretty scattered, and we could become much more flexible and fast with new solutions and ways of interacting with our customers,” he adds. The bank, he says, is investing in “one of the largest change programmes in Northern Europe”, aimed at replacing its core systems with new systems. 

  • Best Private Bank in Latvia
  • Winner: Swedbank Latvia Private Banking

Swedbank set up its private banking unit in 1999 in response to the growing demand for more tailored services from the swelling ranks of wealthy Latvians. Today, the bank targets future growth through both local and international customers, and also has a presence in Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania. It is currently aligning business models in all three Baltic countries in order to increase efficiency and adopt best practice. 

The threshold for high-net-worth customers is a100,000, and although there is no separate offering for ultra-high-net-worth individuals – those with more than a300,000 are serviced by the most experienced private bankers.

Competition is tough, reports Guntars Reidzans, head of private banking at Swedbank, with private banking services offered by both local banks and foreign players, most of whom have Scandinavian origin.  

“We gained and strengthened our leading position in the market by constantly developing product and service offerings, following the needs of our clients and also by uniting business and opinion leaders,” he says.

Clients are advised to diversify among asset classes with a preference on the home currency, the euro, in order to minimise currency risk, says Mr Reidzans, and there are plans to increase the share of developed markets in portfolios.

The bank places great importance in its brand, believing digitisation leads to more frequent contact with clients while making it easier to switch banks. A strong brand is therefore vital in both retaining current customers and attracting new ones.

  • Best Private Bank in Spain
  • Best Private Bank for Digital Communication
  • Winner: BBVA Banca Privada

Spanish banking faced a near-death experience following the global financial crisis, with 53 banks operating in the country being reduced to just 14 over the past five years, following closures and consolidations.

Banks with poor operations or accounting practices were the first to go, with a handful of serious, surviving institutions turning a new page, especially in the area of technology.

Consultants active in the Spanish marketplace see BBVA as the undoubted front-runner in the tech transformation race, opting to offer a broad menu of digital services five years ago, soon followed by rivals such as CaixaBank and Santander.

The bank says its growth drivers, leading to $7bn of net new money flowing in during 2014, included a recovering Spanish economy and improving investor confidence, coupled with tightening regulatory pressure. 

Income from fees also rose 19% during the year, as the bank took a more selective approach to customers, deciding to focus predominantly on the high-net-worth segment, while offering a flexible pricing model.

Investment in technology has transformed the front office in particular, with new software improving customer service.

Tax-efficient mutual funds have been a bestseller during 2014, although structured products are also back on the agenda and low interest rates have fuelled appetites for a recovering Spanish property market.

“A 3% to 5% yield has proved quite attractive for our investors,” says Alberto Calvo, head of Spanish private banking at BBVA, with both retail and commercial property featuring in portfolios.

Online tools have been developed to help gauge customers’ risk appetites and the bank has also been a leader in establishing digital communities and evaluating portfolios. “These services are very expensive, but they provide a clear benefit for us,” says Mr Calvo, with further investment in tools and software promised from group level. 

While BBVA clearly has international ambitions, with operations in several jurisdictions in Latin America, any talk of a high-tech cross-border network is played down by Mr Calvo. “We have co-operation between different units, but it is not easy for a client from Latin America to have a position in Spain or vice versa,” he says. 

  • Best Private Bank in Andorra
  • Winner: Andbank 

In 2014, Andorra Banc AgrícolReig (Andbank) embarked upon a strategic plan aimed at consolidating its recent growth. In the first year of the plan, which stretches until 2017, Andbank has increased its assets under management by 60% to a21.5bn and its gross margin is up 14% on 2013.

International jurisdictions now account for more than 70% of the group’s assets under management. At the end of 2014, Andbank gained a presence in Israel after signing a deal with a local investment company Sigma Investment House, and the group also concluded the process of acquiring Banco Bracce in Brazil.

With these two operations, Andbank increased its presence to 12 countries, and its banking licences to seven. 

“Private banking is the bank’s only activity, therefore investment decisions are not taken on the basis of other business areas’ interests,” says Andbank CEO Ricard Tub.

  • Best Private Bank in Liechtenstein
  • Winner: LGT

LGT is a ‘pure play’ private bank that claims to differentiate itself from peers through strong in-house asset management and manager selection capabilities. 

The bank uses an asset allocation process based on estimating scenario-specific returns for more than 100 asset classes. This is fed into a model to construct an asset allocation that will “perform robustly in all baseline scenarios” rather than achieve a maximum performance in just one type of market.

More than 100 LGT specialists continuously monitor investment managers for the firm’s funds of hedge funds and private equity funds of funds. In private equity, LGT has acquired approximately $6.5bn of original commitments through 185 secondary transactions since inception in 1998, and has generated an annual internal rate of return without leverage of 21.9%.

In 2003, LGT enshrined its first clauses relating to environmental and social responsibility and good governance (ESG) in investment programmes, using a proprietary tool known as the ESG Cockpit to screen funds for companies with the highest ESG risks as well as to select those with business models that can benefit from ESG themes. Its ESG expertise is also available to clients and has been used by third-party pension funds.

“These awards confirm that we are on the right track with our international growth strategy but also that our position as a leading provider of sustainable and impact investing opportunities is recognised in the industry,” says Thomas Piske, CEO of LGT Private Banking.

  • Best Private Bank in Croatia
  • Winner: Zagrebacka banka – UniCredit Group

Zagrebacka banka or Zaba, the largest bank in Croatia with a1.1bn in client assets, was acquired by UniCredit Group in 2002, as part of the Italian bank’s push into Europe. UniCredit acquired Bank Pekao in Poland in 1999 and other banks in a number of other countries creating its ‘New Europe Division’. The acquisition of HVB Group in 2005, a major bank in central and eastern Europe (CEE), gave new momentum to the expansion project, leading to the creation of what UniCredit describes as “largest international banking group in CEE”.

UniCredit CEE Private Banking operates in 10 different countries from which it sources a10.7bn in client assets. In total, UniCredit Private Banking manages a180bn, but more than half of this figure is sourced from Italy.

The key pillars of the Croatian private bank are “a high-level business model integrated with a long-standing culture of working together with the client and strong regional presence”, says Miljenko Zivaljic, CEO of Zagrebacka banka.

With “one of the highest” client satisfaction levels within the UniCredit Group, the Croatian bank aims at increasing its market share in the country, currently standing at more than 25%. 

There are significant opportunities for growing the share of investments in clients’ portfolios. “I believe we have a lot of work ahead of us in the area of investments promotion and communication, as the market in Croatia is still too focused on deposits and cash equivalents,” says Mr Zivaljic.

From its headquarters in Milan, UniCredit Private Banking started rolling out its ‘preferred partner’ approach to fund selection in Europe five years ago. Today, it is believed that the bank’s main challenge remains the harmonisation of the approach across all markets in which it operates. Croatia, for example, does not apply this guided architecture approach, due “to the specifics of the local market”.

The Croatian bank, however, like other banks of the group, benefits from and implements many of the market views given by the global investment strategy team headed by Manuela D’Onofrio. Work carried out by the fund selection team in Milan feeds into the management of discretionary mandates of private banking clients, managed by Zagrebacka Banka’s fund management company.

  • Best Private Bank in Georgia
  • Winner: TBC Bank Private Banking

TBC Bank has one of the oldest private banking lines on the Georgian market, servicing about 8000 clients. One of the bank’s strengths is its “omni-channel banking platform that suits contemporary customers”. Seventy-five percent of its affluent clients and 100% of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients use its remote banking channels for their operations, leaving client-facing staff to focus on bespoke advice for clients. 

“TBC is distinguished by its advanced multichannel capabilities,” says CEO Vakhtang Butskhrikidze. “Our objective is to move to the new, digital era of banking in Georgia. Our best-in-class customer relationship management captures the preferences and choices of our private banking clients, allowing us to offer the most complete, focused and modern private banking experience.”

Over the past year, TBC has also expanded into the mass-affluent market, delivering assets-under-management growth of 19% and an increase in net new money of 42%.

  • Best Private Bank in Hungary
  • Winner: OTP Private Banking

OTP Private Banking, part of OTP Bank, is present in nine countries across central and eastern Europe, managing a4.2bn in client assets, but Hungary is by far the dominant market, making up 73% of assets under management. 

Both assets under management and client numbers saw impressive increases in 2014 as the bank took advantage of its retail banking operations to acquire private banking clients, but there was also a big push to increase the number of clients coming from external sources. Partnerships with prestigious brands and art galleries helped to boost the bank’s brand while new advisors were also hired, both helping to boost the numbers of new clients sourced from external sources by 70%.

Despite this, OTP and private banking in the region face considerable challenges, according to OTP managing director András Takács. “Ultra-low interest rates are a particularly big challenge in central and eastern Europe, because the investment culture and attitudes still differ from western European standards and money-market and fixed-income investments are more dominant in client portfolios,” he says.

Client portfolios have been restructured to include more sophisticated investment products, generating a ‘win-win’ situation as customers were rewarded with higher yielding options while these products offer the bank higher profit margins. “The move toward more complex investment solutions means a change in the risk mindset of the clientele, of course,” says Mr Takács. “Therefore it is crucial to implement methods ensuring compliance with the risk capacity of the clientele. We put emphasis on this factor.”

These changes in investment attitude and clients’ needs require increased developments on the IT side, however, as well as to business models. “To meet these challenges it requires a lot of operational and capital expenditure,” says Mr Takács. “In the future, we have to focus on increasing efficiency and managing service costs through the model as well as enhancing the digital channels.”

  • Best Private Bank in the Czech Republic
  • Winner: CSOB Private Banking

Despite being active in the Czech private banking market for the past 12 years and posting respectable figures – client assets have surged to $4.1bn, up 10% during 2014, including $300m of new money – CSOB has reflected on a distinct absence of strategically developed, tailor-made services for ultra-wealthy clients.

In order to address this, the bank has launched its Wealth Office, staffed by private bankers, specialising in cross-generational and succession planning services, real estate advisory, private placements and financing solutions.

The planned switch for these clients to fee-based advice may not move so smoothly, fears Pavel Tich , Wealth Office director at CSOB. “Once you show the bill to clients for the advice you have given them, that’s the signal for negotiations to start,” he says.

One of the reasons CSOB launched the new capacity was because of the high numbers of Czech businesses currently being sold.

“All the entrepreneurs are selling their companies because they are aged 60 to 65 and it is difficult for them to find successors,” says Mr Tich . “It is a good opportunity for us to make some transactions and to keep managing their money, creating a better structure for their wealth.”

In tandem with this development, a busy year has seen CSOB open up its architecture to a small selection of big-brand third-party funds. Fidelity, Aberdeen and Templeton were easy groups to choose, as they are already “entrenched in the Czech market,” says Mr Tich , but more names of external  product providers are in the pipeline, with the bank working with parent institution KBC Private Banking in order to locate more players.

But persuading clients to switch from bonds, which they perceive to be a conservative play, to equities, is not so easy. “They burned their fingers during the Russian crisis, again when the dot-com bubble burst and once more in 2008,” says Mr Tich . “Our clients’ experience with equities has not been so positive. There is always a two- to three-year period when they made profits, but then the next year it was gone.”

This means most of his clients have a “sub-optimal” 30% underweight allocation to equities. “It is a difficult discussion to convince them of the value which we see in equities,” he says. 

  • Best Private Bank in Slovakia
  • Winner: Tatra Banka

In 2014, Tatra Banka says it maintained the largest share of the private banking market in Slovakia and launched several new services to its private clients. It also created an acquisition team and took on more than 100 new clients with new net asset value of E74m, but decreased the number of clients at the lower level of its service.

“Every year we introduce a number of innovative solutions with the aim to simplify client communication with the bank, make the management of financial assets more convenient, speed up entering orders for sale and purchase of securities, and to ensure convenient transfers between accounts,” says  Katarína Boledovicová, director of the private banking division of Tatra Banka. 

During the past year, the bank introduced the MobileSignTB app enabling clients to make transactions, including payments, through their mobile phone.

“In the service area we have been working on automation of the subsequent internal processes in terms of our MobileSignTB application, which will provide our clients with an even more comfortable and secure execution of transactions,” says Ms Boledovicová. “An upgrade of portfolio reporting will be another big challenge for us because we want to come up with several new views on clients’ assets.”

At the beginning of 2015, the bank also finished a major project on stress testing  customers’ portfolios. This allowed the bank to see how client portfolios would perform under different scenarios and to verify their risk profiles.

“We are the only private bank to come up with a unique innovation – portfolio stress-tests – this year, at a time of stock market peaks,” says Ms Boledovicová. “This is why we were able to prepare our clients for the fall that came in August.”

  • Best Private Bank in Poland
  • Winner: Bank Pekao SA Private Banking

Pekao Private Banking, established in 1997, claims to be a pioneer in private banking in the Polish market. Over the past 18 years the market has changed considerably, but the bank has remained focused on customer satisfaction, and expanding its offering for the wealthiest segment of clients.

For example, it now offers a currency exchange service in PekaoInternet for customers with existing Pekao24 accounts, with preferential rates. Clients can also use the new Pekao World Elite MasterCard, which offers multi-currency functionality.

The scope of customer relations has been enhanced to support enterprises run by private banking clients, and any company run by a client has access to a wide range of investment products offered by Bank Pekao and its affiliated brokerage house Centralny Dom Maklerski Pekao. 

Over the year, Pekao Private Banking’s total financial assets grew by 6% with mutual fund volumes up 15.5% year on year, compared with average market growth of  13.4%. 

Adam Niewinski, head of the private banking division at Pekao, says its mission is to deliver highly individualised financial solutions for private banking clients and offering an integrated and complex service model. “We have shown our capability to implement innovative solutions for our clients and to provide the best answers in a continuously changing and demanding economic situation,” he adds. 

  • Best Private Bank in Canada
  • Best Initiative of the Year in Relationship Management Technology
  • Winner: RBC Wealth Management

The initiatives taken by RBC Wealth Management over the past year have largely been aimed at improving advisor productivity and enhancing client service, which are crucial in an increasingly competitive environment. 

The Canadian bank developed and launched a new client relationship management system called ClientView, which helps private bankers build their practices, keep all of their client information in one place, prioritise contacts and manage relationships. 

Also, the institution, which manages more than $100bn in client assets, is rolling out ‘myGPS’, a web-based, integrated and interactive tool that helps its North American wealth advisors provide goals-based advice. “The myGPS service takes relationship management to a new level, helping advisors to anticipate client needs. It defines, guides and reports on goals, all in one tool,” says Doug Guzman, recently appointed as group head, wealth management and insurance, at RBC. “Digital capabilities are increasingly critical to the client experience.”  

The bank also expanded its credit capability across all market segments, from affluent to ultra-high-net-worth clients. Moreover, it has continued to offer new investment opportunities and build wealth solutions catering to solving high-net-worth clients’ retirement, estate and tax planning needs. This is also achieved through partnerships. The one between RBC Capital Markets’ global equity-linked product team and RBC Dominion Securities has generated a new product line to address the needs of Canadian clients wishing to invest in the US equity market.

In association with the not-for-profit Business Families Foundation, the bank provides family businesses with a “robust suite of support tools” to help with business transition planning. The partnership will help produce an online education programme for business owners and their families.

“Many clients are seeking more, and frankly expecting more, from their advisor and their firm, and we see this trend across different demographics,” says Mr Guzman. “Ageing clients are entering or planning for retirement, while younger generations are accumulating wealth... and have complex wealth management needs.” 

  • Best Private Bank in Mexico
  • Winner: BBVA Bancomer Private Bank

The private banking unit of Mexico’s BBVA Bancomer, part of Spain’s BBVA, viewed 2014 as something of a consolidation year following the recent launch of a number of strategies. 

For example, ‘Experiencia Unica’, launched in 2013, is a methodology that aims to strengthen the customer experience by standardising the way BBVA’s bankers interact with clients. Although it strives for excellence, focus group feedback reported advisors were behaving in too “robotic” a manner, so the bank has changed protocols in an attempt to allow its bankers to “improvise” more.

The product offering is also evolving. “We used to have very limited options in terms of local investment products, including plain vanilla bonds and some equity,” says Javier Diez, head of affluent and private banking at BBVA Bancomer. “But now we are able to offer our clients the possibility to invest all over the world in a variety of asset classes, for example in private equity and structured products.”

The bank sees great opportunity to grow the use of structured products – only 30% of clients currently have them in their portfolios – as well as in mutual funds.

BBVA places a great deal of importance on servicing clients through their families, believing that by investing in future generations they are planning for the long term. The bank provides a dedicated education consultant to help find schools across the globe for its clients’ offspring, including those children with special needs, while finance programmes are offered through the New York Institute of Finance, where they can learn about the products their families are invested in. There are also opportunities to attend the BBVA campus in Madrid to learn about financial management and leadership. 

  • Best Private Bank in Chile
  • Winner: LarrainVial

LarrainVial’s focus is on clients with a net worth of more than $1m, and as its team grows, its aim is to limit the number of clients per wealth manager, a concept that has also been taken to its 10 branches outside the Chilean capital of Santiago, increasing service quality across the country. 

The bank offers an open architecture service, supported by platforms such as UBS, Pictet, Pershing and Allfunds, but has been increasing the investment products offered.  Managers recommend portfolios for clients, according to analysis by LV Estrategia, and also work closely with other areas of LarrainVial, such as its corporate finance division, which has enabled higher net-worth clients access to special investments, such as controlling stakes in local and foreign companies in industries such as healthcare and energy. 

Through Activa, LarrainVial’s private equity subsidiary, access is offered to private equity funds in mining, energy, agriculture forestry and housing that invest in Chile, Peru, Colombia and other countries in Latin America. This asset class already accounts for 5% to 15% of high-net-worth client portfolios. 

“We have taken many steps to innovate over the past few years, such as the creation of a special tactical recommendation area, called LarrainVial Estrategia, along with providing an open-architecture service, as well as diverse investment alternatives, including private equity funds,” says Gonzalo Córdova, head of wealth management at LarrainVial. 

“These are some examples of our efforts to maintain our leadership in the Chilean wealth management industry. Our objective is that when someone needs advisory to make the best investment decisions, they think of LarrainVial as their top choice.” 

  • Best Private Bank in Colombia
  • Winner: BTG Pactual

Despite macro-economic headwinds, due to expectations of a tighter monetary policy in the US and a harder environment for commodities, in 2014 BTG Pactual attracted 10bn reais ($2.58bn) in net new money, contributing to total growth in assets under management of 20% year on year, to 81bn reais.

“The three main drivers for last year’s performance were brand recognition and increased awareness, long-standing quality relationships and a differentiated product offering,” says Rogerio Pessoa, wealth management CEO at BTG Pactual, headquartered in Brazil. “In a harsh macro-economic environment, clients tend to fly to quality and enhance their holdings with traditional and close business partners.”

A key factor behind the development of the bank’s international investment capabilities was the decision to move the investment team to the New York office and build a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural team.

Also, the acquisition, recently completed, of Generali’s BSI Bank, one of the largest Swiss banks with about SFr99bn ($103.8bn) in assets, will offer the opportunity to explore cross-border deals between Latin America and Europe, says Mr Pessoa.

The bank is increasingly perceived as a global player that has reinforced its local presence in Latin America, due in part to a number of acquisitions carried out in recent years. This is a key competitive advantage in a testing macro-economic environment, negatively affecting local economies and creation of new wealth, and exacerbated by regulatory changes in several Latin American countries.

In Colombia, BTG Pactual has been significantly investing into the development of its advisory capabilities. 

“One of the services being developed is wealth planning and trust services, in a country where traditionally independent lawyers and some trusts with under-par specialisation in the investment arena have dominated,” says Mr Pessoa.

The bank is looking to set up a ‘Fiduciaria’ structure, expected to boost both wealth planning and international investment capabilities, while ‘Corporación Financiera’ will offer a local credit programme.

The bank is continuing expanding throughout Latin America and last year started a Mexican operation and consolidated its Peruvian unit.

  • Best Private Bank in Bermuda
  • Winner: The Bank of NT Butterfield & Son Limited

Bermuda has experienced what has been referred to as a ‘perfect economic storm’ in recent years, marked by recession and protracted recovery, population shrinkage and increasing regulation, against a backdrop of international scrutiny of offshore jurisdictions. Butterfield’s private banking business has, however, grown over this period, a result, says the bank, of its “focus on high-touch services, customised credit and asset management solutions, and trust offerings that leverage the group’s international presence”. The bank has also worked hard to improve its technology and investment management approach over the past few years.

“Although the breadth and sophistication of our financial services have grown over time, high-touch private banking services remain at the core of how we do business,” says Nir Sadeh, senior vice-president and head of private banking, Bermuda, at the Bank of NT Butterfield & Son. 

“We pride ourselves on getting to know each of our clients – and their families and businesses – very well, and working with the resources available to us across the Butterfield Group to customise lending, cash management, investment, custody and fiduciary services solutions to suit their needs.” 

It is the norm, rather than the exception, for private bankers to meet regularly with clients face to face at Butterfield’s dedicated private banking facility in the capital city Hamilton to take care of their transactional and financial planning needs. “This is a traditional approach that is highly valued by our clientele,” says Mr Sadeh.

  • Best Private Bank in South Africa
  • Winner: Investec

One of the major initiatives announced in 2014 by Investec was to give clients access to its banking and investment services, both locally and internally, under one brand and one umbrella, and in ‘one place’. The bank provides solutions in three core areas of activity, including asset management, wealth and investment, and specialist banking. 

“Our clients are internationally mobile and true global citizens, and they need a bank that can meet their banking and investments needs” says Ciaran Whelan, global head of Investec Private Banking. “One Place is the culmination of our efforts over the past five years to give our clients a place to do their local and international banking and investments.”

As a result, for example, Investec UK Private Bank’s sterling-based transactional account is now available to South African clients, who have access to a card through which they can receive and make payments or simply keep funds offshore. 

“The depth of our client relationships is key,” says Henry Blumenthal, head of Investec Wealth & Investment, South Africa. “So, rather than a generalist relationship manager, our clients have a specialist private banker as well as a specialist investment manager.” Investec’s global investment process draws on the combined skills and experience of investment teams in the UK, South Africa and Switzerland, he adds. 

The bank is expanding its alternative investment footprint through an ‘exclusive global private equity partnership’ with the Carlyle Group. It is also introducing innovation to its hi-tech channels. For example, a free app gives clients a consolidated global view of their banking and investment accounts for mobile and tablet devices. A secure authentication method – a fingerprint recognition feature – enables clients to log in to their app with a single touch, as an alternative to their online password. 

Investec was the first financial institution in South Africa to introduce real-time voice biometric technology for the 24/7 global client support centre. This authenticates the client, within seconds, by comparing their voice with the saved voiceprint.

In 2014, at Investec net new money increased by R24bn ($1.81bn), an impressive 160% up on 2013, bringing the bank’s total assets under management to R381bn at the end of 2014, while client numbers increased by 16%.

  • Best Private Bank in Nigeria
  • Winner: FirstBank Private Banking

Nigeria’s private banking story is an interesting one, and one that has occurred in stages, according to UK Eke, executive director, south, at First Bank of Nigeria.

“First, there was the proof-of-concept stage where those of us who dared to venture in this area had to prove that it was worth the endeavour,” he says. The sustenance or survival stage followed, where those who made it out of the first stage had to invest significantly in capacity building, especially in the areas of talent and technology, making it easier to engage with clients and meet their needs.

“We’re now at a point where we have to harness the successes from the previous periods towards diversifying the means through which we meet our clients’ needs in a manner that is both beneficial to the customers and profitable to the bank,” says Mr Eke.

FirstBank’s 1400 clients come from across the country. The Lagos hub covers the south-west, Abuja the north and Port Harcourt the south-east. 

Anyone operating in Nigeria over the past 18 months will have been affected to some extent by the country’s turbulent political situation, but FirstBank took evasive actions to protect client assets. “Some of these actions included migrating investments to more defensive currencies and in some cases switching asset classes for more liquidity,” says Mr Eke. The bank is also looking to increase its capacity to provide clients with outlets in foreign jurisdictions. 

Nigeria has challenges to overcome, says Mr Eke, but that will create opportunities. “We expect a slow period as the country goes through a transitional phase to a – hopefully – more prosperous existence. Clients will require a degree of hand-holding and protection from the tremors that may occur along the way. We are positioned to be at the forefront in providing them with this,” he adds.

  • Best Private Bank in Kenya
  • Winner: Standard Bank Wealth and Investment

Standard Bank made the decision to focus on its African franchise while scaling back on acquiring new clients from outside Africa. As a consequence, the institution which has on-the-ground presence in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, some representation outside Africa and a strategic partnership with Chinese bank ICBC, experienced significant growth, both in new clients and revenues, across its key African franchises. These include South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Mauritius.

At the Kenyan business of the South African bank, where it has been operating since late 2012, last year revenues surged by 48% and new clients rose by 22%, while the local team almost doubled.

In 2014, the bank took a key initiative aimed at capturing the next generation, through the launch of its Leadership Academies. These are targeted at young adults in different age groups, with one focusing on women specifically, and have the purpose of deepening the knowledge of financial literacy, investment, leadership and philanthropy.

“We place a strong focus on generational wealth and we have been overwhelmed at the positive response we’ve received from our clients who have participated in our Leadership Academies,” says Anjali Harkoo, head of CFC Stanbic Wealth and Investment, the Kenyan wealth and investment business of Standard Bank.

Also, the bank significantly improved collaboration between business units, which increased client referrals and new business leads across the group. In Kenya, it completed a number of onshore-offshore transactions for key clients which leveraged assets held onshore and/or offshore.

Business owners, professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, and clients from the manufacturing sector are expected to be the major sources of wealth going forward. 

“Land values in Kenya have appreciated significantly, with a number of our clients owning land and developing property, thereby giving rise to further leverage into their businesses and growth prospects,” says Ms Harkoo.

“Finding the right people is our biggest challenge in Kenya, particularly when it comes to finding relationship managers that have the right skills and qualifications,” she adds, explaining that the bank has several initiatives in place to train and groom talent internally.

  • Best Private Bank in Mauritius
  • Winner: AfrAsia Bank

Founded in 2007, it is unsurprising that such a bank as young as AfrAsia has digital technology at the heart of its offering. 

“Digital, today, is not a choice, we have to keep up with the trends and explore opportunities and devise a roadmap towards a holistic approach,” says Thierry Vallet, general manager at AfrAsia Private Bank. 

“With 163,000 millionaires in Africa and a strong demand for digital in wealth relationship, we have plans to continue implementing a digital strategy that will not only promote our brand but also adapt to clients’ evolving lifestyles, while always upholding our ‘bank different’ approach.”

AfrAsia has customers from more than 120 countries, but its focus remains on African and Asian regions, as well as clients in Europe that have an interest in Africa, says Mr Vallet. The growing number of high-net-worth individuals in Africa represents a huge opportunity and AfrAsia plans to offer them more diverse and sophisticated investment options, according to Mr Vallet. 

“One of our main challenges is to remain a reliable financial partner and solution provider through times of high risks, vulnerability or uncertainty,” he says, highlighting the bank’s open-architecture approach. 

Growth has been impressive, with assets under management up by more than 50% between 2013 and 2014, and private client numbers doubling to more than 12,500.

The bank is headquartered in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis, but recently set up a flagship branch in Ebene, complete with digital wall and table displays. It also invested heavily in the inaugural AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the first worldwide tri-sanctioned golf tournament involving the Sunshine, European and Asian tours, in an attempt to boost international awareness of its brand.

  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service
  • Winner: Citi Private Bank

One of the key selling points of Citi Private Bank is that the institution is truly global, housing staff in 49 offices across 15 countries, meaning that if a European client wishes to invest in Asia or an Asian customer in Europe, this can generally be arranged internally. Its Global Clients Programme caters for customers with multi-jurisdictional needs.

The bank strives to keep a low ratio of clients per relationship manager, one of the key metrics for management and customer service in the ultra-high-net-worth space. Clients are promised a choice of daily, weekly or monthly contact with a dedicated banker.

“This is very much a people business, in the $50m to $100m bracket,” says Peter Charrington, global head of Citi Private Bank. “This is the most intimate of financial networks you can have. It is their money and they make it – the personal wealth of entrepreneurs. It is not just about managing their money, it is beyond that; it is about managing their legacy.” Machines will never replace private bankers, according to Mr Charrington, but technology must be utilised to help make clients interaction as smooth as possible.

According to Aite Group’s Alois Pirker, who sits on our judging panel and has conducted research into innovative private banks, Citi launched an initiative in 2011 to position itself for growth, reflecting changing trends in client expectations and behaviours, dismissing the old stereotypes associated with private banking.

Its vision for a “new century private bank” set out to combine new technology with a transformation of the business to suit the next, increasingly mobile, global and tech-savvy generation of private clients.

The institution boasts bankers dedicated to specific client segments, including private equity, real estate, oil and gas and the media/entertainment sector. 

Citi claims to have one of the most comprehensive menus in the business, with strategies spanning capital markets, managed investments, trust and estate, loans and mortgages, aircraft finance and sports advisory.

While net new money slumped by 43% during 2014, $19bn of inflows still managed to nudge asset towards the $290bn mark, with profits up 8% to $1.1bn. The management team says it has hugely improved efficiency during the past five years, streamlining support staff and moving them to cheaper locations.

  • Best Private Bank for Growth Strategy
  • Winner: Bank Julius Baer

Julius Baer’s ambitious takeover of Merrill Lynch’s non-US business, announced three years ago, appears to be paying off.  With the transfer of Merrill Lynch International Wealth Management’s SFr6bn ($6.29bn) business in India in September, the Swiss bank has now completed the integration process in all locations, adding SFr60bn in total to its assets under management, which had reached SFr284bn at the end of June this year.

The Merrill deal seems to have protected Julius Baer against the fallout from the shock decision by the Swiss National Bank in January to let the franc strengthen, putting pressure on the profits of all Swiss banks. 

Before the takeover and the “realisation of international wealth management synergies”, Julius Baer had roughly 75% of its costs in Swiss francs, but only 17% of the assets from which it earned revenues denominated in the currency.

At the end of 2014, the bank’s cost base in local currency had dropped to 60% and the share of assets under management in Swiss francs had fallen to 13%. However, in 2015 the bank implemented some drastic cost measures, including job cutting, to offset the appreciation of the local currency. As a result, its cost-to-income ratio stands at 64.7% today. 

Since the end of 2008, when the bank’s assets under management were almost half of what they are today (SFr155bn), about 50% of the asset increase has been due to acquisitions, while net new money has accounted for almost 40% of growth. The remaining growth is explained by market performance, which largely offsets the negative cumulative impact from the strengthening of the Swiss franc. 

“Our focus to generate growth is twofold – organic growth and selective acquisition when the right opportunity arises,” says Boris Collardi, CEO at Bank Julius Baer. A client-centric culture, a true open architecture and an innovate culture are key differentiating factors, he believes. 

The Swiss bank has now a presence in more than 25 countries and some 50 locations. About 25 per cent of its total assets are booked in Asia, a region that has benefited from “improved client activities, continued inflows from local clients as well as from the integration and subsequent rightsizing of the international wealth management business in Singapore and Hong Kong,” says Mr Collardi. 

  • Best Private Banking Boutique
  • Winner: Banque Syz & Co

The recent acquisition of the Swiss private banking arm of RBC, with about SFr10bn ($10.48bn) in assets under management, enabled Bank Syz to expand its international footprint to new markets, and almost doubled its assets under management to SFr24bn. Including the asset management arm, the Syz Group manages nearly SFr40bn in assets. 

Syz sees itself as a ‘consolidator’ in the Swiss market and has plans to grow further, both organically and through targeted acquisitions, and outside the country too.

“Being a boutique is a question of state of mind, not a question of size,” says Eric Syz, Syz Group CEO, hinting to possible expansion plans in the US. “There is no limit to expansion as long as you can keep your DNA.” Sharing values and vision is the most difficult criterion to meet when looking to acquire, he adds.

Clients, says Mr Syz, want to be part of an entrepreneurial owner-led bank. “I truly believe that if you invest with conviction and with rigorous processes, you can generate performance, because there are always excellent investment opportunities in the world,” he says.

The entrepreneurial spirit, also underlined by the performance fee system implemented at the bank, is particularly crucial to meet the needs of the many wealthy entrepreneurs in the African and Latin American markets opened by the acquisition.

“The challenge is to remain efficient and profitable and also innovate constantly, as regulatory costs increase and profit margins are under pressure,” says Mr Syz, explaining the bank is investing “a lot of resources” in fintech.“I have a long-term vision, I am not concerned with short-term results,” adds Mr Syz, who last year took control of almost all the shares of the group’s holding company, following the decision of the two other founding partners, Alfredo Piacentini and Paolo Luban, to exit the firm.

The bank, which was founded in 1996, does not have any legacy issues, according to Mr Syz. Since inception the group has been “clearly geared towards tax-compliant asset management”, in particular by diversifying into institutional asset management and investment fund activities. 

In private banking, the Swiss institution has focused on onshore development in Italy, Spainand the US.

  • Best Performing Private Bank
  • Winner: BMO Private Banking

BMO Private Banking emerged as the best performing private bank at a global level in terms of delta in performance measures between 2013 and 2014. The result was based on the quantitative analysis of business growth and efficiency carried out by wealth management consultancy Scorpio Partnership, as part of the firm’s annual global Benchmark study on private banking.

A client-centric model, a focus on wealth planning and strong internal partnerships are the three key factors behind the bank’s achievement, according to David Heatherly, chief operating officer at BMO Private Banking. Last year, net new money surged by more than 70%, to C$2.3bn ($1.78bn), assets under manageemnt rose 18% to C$28.7bn, while operating profits also increased by 14%.

One of the key building blocks of the revitalised BMO brand is ‘one bank’, a concept often unsuccessfully implemented in private banking, generally because of the inability to create collaborative environments that encourage and reward cross-divisional referrals. “We apply a single lens when it comes to our customers, cross-business, cross-border and cross-channel,” says Mr Heatherly, explaining that great customer service cannot be achieved without strong partnerships across the enterprise. 

 “The One Bank approach is fully supported at senior levels and performance is measured against this,” he adds. 

Last year, the bank expanded its wealth planning team, with all locations now having at least one dedicated wealth planner. “Wealth planning is at the heart of everything we do,” says Mr Heatherly. 

Improved process transformation and better client insights, obtained through an analytics tool that helps front-line teams to identify client needs, also contributed to attract and retain clients, who grew by 7% in 2014.

The bank has developed solutions and trained teams of professionals focused on the need of specific attractive client segments in the country, including business owners, physicians and those aged 55 and older, expected to grow the fastest of all age groups. Women are a large and growing part of the high-net-worth population, while the ultra-high-net-worth segment is also the fastest growing and the most underserved wealth segment in the country. New Canadians are also a key source of wealth.

  • Best Private Bank for Philanthropy Services
  • Winner: Lombard Odier & Cie

Lombard Odier’s key strength, when it comes to philanthropy, is its ability to offer bespoke services. The Swiss bank’s credibility in this space is also closely linked to the sustained philanthropic engagements of the bank’s current and former partners.

“We offer truly tailor-made, bespoke research and advice,” says Karin Jestin, head of philanthropy at Lombard Odier for the past seven years, and previously a McKinsey consultant. “This is suited to clients’ aspirations and values, and delivered by a dedicated team that combines strategic consulting skills with a deep knowledge of, and passion for, the social sector.”

At the bank, the journey towards giving starts from defining the donor profile, their motivations, expectations and ambitions, preferred style of engagement and level of personal involvement required. “Philanthropy is a way to deepen relationships with clients, and is very intimate,” says Ms Jestin. 

Developing a giving strategy involves a great deal of secondary research. Structuring the giving vehicle and investment approach may lead to the creation of an independent foundation or trust. As this may not always be the ideal solution, clients can donate through existing umbrella structures, such as Fondation Philanthropia, which was set up by Lombard Odier in 2008 to facilitate clients’ philanthropic engagements. 

Unlike some competitors, the philanthropy team of three at Lombard Odier is not constrained in its activity by any short-term financial goals. “Philanthropy advisors should have financial targets, if any, linked to the social impact delivered and/or the level of satisfaction of donors,” says Ms Jestin.  

The team is responsible for the monitoring of the project and reporting to donors, while field visits, when needed, help to design projects.

Looking forward, in order to enhance philanthropy offering at the bank, Ms Jestin advocates there should be “renewed commitment at the top”, continued training of relationship managers, so that they can be more at ease to raise the subject with clients, and enhanced awareness-raising opportunities.

 “Creating a greater understanding of the impact philanthropy can have, making it palatable, and telling stories of its impact are key factors that can contribute to the growth of philanthropy,” she says. “Being a force for good is something few can resist.”

  • Best Private Bank for Succession Planning
  • Winner: Northern Trust

Family offices are an increasing focus for sourcing assets at Northern Trust, which looks after $224bn for wealthy private clients. This gradual shift in focus is combined with expanding wealth planning and advisory services to those selling their businesses, for typically $20m to $30m, increasingly prioritising the need for succession planning.

There is a “direct correlation” in the level of advice needed and the number of clients selling businesses, according to Dave Fox, head of the global family office at Northern Trust. “Clients get laser-focused on the things we do when they are coming up to a liquidity event,” he says, adding that the relationship needs to be cemented at an earlier stage.

An increasing internationalisation of families has also led to more complex wealth planning requirements. “A lot of our clients are having to grapple with the fundamental globalisation of their families, spreading out across different jurisdictions, which affects everything they do in terms of estate planning,” says Mr Fox.

Succession planning also includes identifying outlets for philanthropic activities, he adds. “We spend a lot of time with clients around foundations,” he says. “This is a huge business for us.”

Most of Northern Trust’s clients already have philanthropic interests, but their aim now is to get their children involved too. This often means drafting a mission statement containing references to shared values. Many families are also increasingly organising vacations, particularly to developing countries, around their philanthropic goals. 

“Philanthropy is more than just giving away money,” says Mr Fox. “It is about the mindset. It is critical for the children to realise what they have been born into and what the family values are.”

  • Best Leader in Private Banking
  • Winner: Peter Flavel, Deputy CEO, JPMorgan Private Bank Asia

Peter Flavel is a veteran private banking leader with wealth of experience across the globe running international banking businesses for more than two decades. 

Previously, Mr Flavel was the group head of Standard Chartered Private Bank, the private banking division of Standard Chartered. He joined Standard Chartered in February 2003 as global head of sales, marketing and distribution, based in Singapore. He subsequently took on the role of head of consumer banking, Singapore, where he was the driving force behind the success of the innovative online account e$aver, which has set a new benchmark in the financial services industry for deposits.

In 2007, he led the successful launch of Standard Chartered Private Bank in 11 locations across India, China, the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea in just five weeks. In late 2007, Mr Flavel led the successful due diligence and acquisition of the private bank division of American Express Bank. 

His current role is as deputy chief executive officer of JPMorgan Private Wealth Management based in Singapore. Mr Flavel has spearheaded JPMorgan’s offering for high-net-worth clients in Asia, focusing on clients with investable assets of $10m to $30m. He has helped JPMorgan redefine what high-net-worth clients expect from their private banking relationships. Mr Flavel has advocated the unique JPMorgan model where the client has access to an investment team as well as the private bankers.

He sits on the Private Bank Industry Group set up to help advise the Monetary Authority of Singapore on industry matters and within that group he chairs a subcommittee overseeing the implementation of the new mandatory continuing professional development standards. Mr Flavel has degrees in law and commerce/economics and attended the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard University in 1999.

At the forefront in developing and championing the JPMorgan brand and through his unique style and dynamic influence, Mr Flavel has been able to attract and retain some top senior talent in Asia. He has done this through passionately promoting JPMorgan’s value proposition, but perhaps more importantly, by using the reputation he has rightfully gained.


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