Our 11th annual private banking awards see a strong showing from leading US banks combining technological innovation, customer service and business acumen

The key standout from the Global Private Banking Awards for 2019 is the excellent performance of the US banks, with a new vigour, energy and vision apparent in their submissions and results.

Citi and JPMorgan have been particularly prominent in terms of numbers of trophies collected. Citi retains its Best Global Private Bank award, while also picking up accolades for customer service and work with global families. Its CEO of global private banking, Peter Charrington, is also named Best Leader. JPMorgan triumphs in the newer, ‘softer skills’ of philanthropy, diversity and training. The likes of Northern Trust, BNY Mellon and Bank of America are also on the list of winners and highly commended private banks.

Putting the client first

While strong balance sheets and the health of the US economy has underpinned these banks’ successes, there is also a more fundamental factor at play, that of becoming more attuned to develop a client-centric business, according to our judges.

“This requires a different management mindset and a commitment to rethink customer engagement,” says Seb Dovey, independent consultant and adviser to banks, who set up the Scorpio wealth think-tank. “Those that get this early – like some of the American firms – will reap much longer term benefits. They will adjust their commercial model, they will increase their curation of data to make better commercial outcomes and they will embed a scalable model.”

It is this combination of technological innovation, customer service and business acumen that is finally clicking for the US banks, many of whom have learned the hard way, paying for defections after clients were dismayed at their product-pushing ways post-financial crisis.

Not only is the ‘can-do attitude’ of the Americans beginning to take off, but their willingness to try out new ideas through measured risk taking is beginning to outshine European rivals, who are becoming more risk averse and thereby opening the door to US competition, according to Kim Cornwall, a former Merrill Lynch veteran of 25 years, now involved in training relationship managers, especially in Europe and the Middle East.

“The US banks do not have some of the hang-ups that the old-school European banks have,” says Mr Cornwall. “They are happy to reach out to the younger generation and have launched many educational programmes that are well received by clients both old and young. They have good training programmes for their bankers and stress the importance of inter-generational wealth transfers. JPMorgan leads the pack, though some of the big Swiss banks are also strongly focused on this.”

Diversity and sustainability

UBS, Credit Suisse and Pictet, for example, continue to have a strong presence among our winners and pick up awards for quality, with their services spanning several continents. While the European banks, particularly the Swiss, are making significant progress in their work to woo the next generation of clients, focusing on entrepreneurship, education and socially responsible sectors, among others, it is the US firms that have been the most vocal around these subject areas. 

This is particularly true with diversity, where the Americans have committed resources and adjusted their approach to business, whereas there appears to be little change to the attitudes of an older, traditionally white, male workforces of some players in Europe. 

Not only that, but some continental firms still take home country workforces with them when setting up foreign outposts, leading to an atmosphere closer to the colonisation of yesteryear rather than the modern-day inclusivity they often preach.

JPMorgan’s aims and practices, for instance, include advancing black, Hispanic and Asian talent within the firm, commitments to hiring thousands of black students in apprenticeships over five years and empowering women. The bank’s setting up of 10 different business resource groups representing constituencies including disabled workers, those from a military background, those from the next generation, LGBT employees and racial minorities is a stark reminder to many European players of their own challenges. Some European banks have fallen well behind the diversity trend and will begin to suffer as younger clients and relationship managers begin to seek firms which better represent their beliefs and mindsets.

A leadership vision

When it comes to transforming these practices, more and more commentators talk about not just changing the organisational structures within the banks, but to make sure there is a strong leadership and vision at the helm. 

US banks appear to have hit a richer vein of opportunity, due to their combination of management culture and quality of relationship managers, according to Gerard Aquilina, an adviser to family offices and former boss of international and domestic private banking at HSBC. “US domestic private bankers have a far more substantive knowledge of credit and other banking skills than international private bankers,” he says.

This organisational culture is further enhanced by influence from the top of the pyramid. “American middle and senior management is generally qualitatively better than the others. They have had to regroup since 2008, but are on the roll again,” he adds.

This appears particularly important when it comes to technological innovation, but also in the areas of socially responsible investments, training, diversity and philanthropy, which are of interest to all clients, but particularly light the fire of younger generations.

Leadership, and its role in transformation, is key to success. Global players such as Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and HSBC have all faced major compliance and operational issues over recent years, after a period of strong, cross-border successes.

The question is whether they can return once more to winning ways through guidance from their upper echelons. “HSBC has an amazing global franchise and the size to succeed, it has just lacked the commitment,” says Mr Cornwall. “There is now a good opportunity for HSBC, and with vision and a change in attitude, it could go places.”

The restructuring trap 

But the future is less certain for others caught in the revolving door of regularly changing management, leading to an almost permanent spot in the purgatory of constant restructuring.

Mr Cornwall has “seen the movie” of sporadic hiring without strategic vision many times before, and warns banks not to pick up expensive staff willy-nilly without a strong central plan. “You cannot go out and buy assets under management and relationship managers,” he says. “The best growth is always organic.”

A “fresh type of leadership” could eventually emerge at Asian players such as DBS and Standard Chartered, which embrace a globalisation mindset that leads to a greater ambition outside their Asia-Pacific perimeter fence. 

At least one Chinese bank (though most from the country are still concentrating on business opportunities in their thriving home market) is expected to burst onto the cross-border private banking stage within the next 10 years.

“There is space for a global entity, or perhaps several entities, with strong, Asia-based roots and an Asian business platform,” says Mr Dovey. “So perhaps it is really a challenge for a fresh type of leadership that is open minded enough to look beyond traditional borders.” 

  • Best global private bank
  • Best Global Private Bank for Customer Service
  • Best Private Bank for Global Families and Family Offices
  • Winner: Citi Private Bank

Everything is finally clicking for Citi Private Bank, which is achieving success in its ambition to deliver private banking services to the highest echelon of what it calls “global citizens”.

These are small numbers of clients which the bank serves, probably less than 12,000 families with investments in excess of $25m around the world. But Citi’s aim to give these families a global service, where they receive the same attention from 1000 frontline private bankers in 48 offices, wherever they find themselves in a particular week, seems to be ringing true.

This means that if a global client opens an account outside their home region, a ‘host banker’ will contact them to advise upon and execute transactions, in the same fashion as would have occurred in their home city. This host banker will also keep the primary relationship manager informed of all local transactions, so that when the client or family returns once more to their home stomping ground, their usual bankers are aware of their global asset exposures and business interests abroad.

One of the key improvements in the Citi offering has been a focus on the investments platform, with the establishment of a dedicated Citi Investment Management internal investment firm to serve the bank’s private clients. This is an unusual move among private banks, but a sensible one in a world where the distinction between asset and wealth managers is becoming more vague, leaving clients with access to a greater number of potential competitors.

This proprietary asset management business is involved in all key markets, including Asia, where the group can cater to clients who make transaction orders in Mandarin, Cantonese and other regional languages. 

The Asian investment operation under Roger Bacon is currently recruiting more Chinese nationals into its expanding, research-based operation.

“We are focused on identifying native Chinese people to move into the business,” says Mr Bacon. “Clients on the mainland want to speak to people from their part of China.”

In addition to proposing research-based thematic equity portfolios and alternative offerings in sectors such as biotechnology, investment staff are able to have deeper conversations with clients around specific objectives and opportunities. This is a far cry from 10 years ago, when internal investment staff complained about a bureaucratic internal structure which allowed them no flexibility in their investment practices. 


  • Best Private Bank in Europe
  • Best Private Bank in Switzerland
  • Winner: Pictet

Headquartered in Geneva, at the heart of Europe, Pictet considers the continent as a natural strategic market, together with Switzerland, its historical market, and Asia. 

Founded more than 200 years ago, the bank opened its first European office in London in 1980, and now has 27 offices across the world.

Pictet has been a pioneer in socially responsible investment, having launched strategies in that space more than 20 years ago. Today, Pictet’s thematic franchise, which invests in companies addressing environmental and societal challenges, stands at $41bn.

“We are seeing a trend among ultra-high-net-worth individuals to embed responsibility or environmental, social and governance [ESG] more holistically throughout the management of their wealth,” explains Heinrich Adami, head of private banking in London at Pictet Wealth Management.  

In response to this demand, Pictet Wealth Management has launched a dedicated multi-assets responsible investing offering which combines different approaches currently available in the market, spanning ESG integration and active ownership, sustainability themes and impact investing. “More products and solutions will emerge as the space becomes increasingly sophisticated to meet the expectations of a new generations of clients,” adds Mr Adami.

Operating as a partnership since the foundation of the group in 1805, Pictet’s seven partners share many common features with entrepreneurs and families. As such, they have a personal understanding of the needs and challenges that entrepreneurs and wealthy families face, as they have to deal with the same worries such as succession, education and the role of money.

“That experience, together with Pictet’s exclusive focus on wealth and asset management, with no investment banking activity and thus no conflicts of interest, has allowed us to offer independent advice to entrepreneurs throughout the lifecycle of their business,” says Mr Adami. “It is also Pictet’s partnership ethos that allows the group to concentrate on creating value for the long term, a game-changer for wealthy families that often span several generations.”

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

Celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2019, Erste Group knows the importance of its traditions, but also of having a forward-thinking mindset.

Its ‘George’ online platform now handles the banking needs of more than 5 million customers in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, with Croatia and Hungary next in line.

“Private banking clients in Austria have access to state-of-the art asset reporting through George,” says Thomas Schaufler, the Erste Bank Oesterreich board member responsible for private banking. “This interactive reporting allows clients to view their entire portfolio of assets online at any time. Its comprehensive functions makes it possible for clients to, among other things, choose the period of the report, find all securities positions easily, and retrieve detailed evaluations.”

Erste’s private banking operations now cover 19,000 clients across Austria and the central and eastern Europe region, with assets under management standing at  €22.6bn. 

Alternative investments are of increasing interest to these clients, reports András Kállay, head of the Erste Group Private Banking CEE Competence Centre, with real estate funds proving particularly popular. “Private equity is starting to be perceived as an interesting vehicle for enhancing the portfolio return,” he adds. “However, this type of investment is still at an early stage for most of our clients.” 

Environmental, social and governance investments are also a growing part of client portfolios, especially in Austria, where responsible investing has a long history, says Mr Kállay.

To enhance efficiency and profitability, Erste has initiated the process of downgrading some clients below the official private banking threshold.

“Those downgrades that we did undertake – mainly to the top affluent segment – went really smoothly because we have a very broad product and service offering and due to the fact that the impacted clients still have a well-qualified personal adviser, quite possibly a mid-level adviser,” says Mr Kállay. 

  • Best Private Bank in the Middle East
  • Best Private Bank in Qatar
  • Best Private Bank in Russia
  • Best Private Bank for Entrepreneurs
  • Winner: Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse’s distinctive trait is its ability to deliver its services through an integrated franchise, across private, investment and corporate banking. Founded 163 years ago by Alfred Escher, the Swiss business leader, politician and railway pioneer, the bank keeps entrepreneurial thinking as one of its core principles, and prides itself in being able to support entrepreneurs through every stage of their business cycle.

In Russia, where private wealth and corporate activities are much more intertwined than in western Europe or the US, many clients are entrepreneurs and have major stakes in Russian companies. “Our clients are looking to us beyond wealth management and we can provide them access to our other capabilities, including project finance, export finance, structured lending and investment banking,” says Robert Cielen, head of international wealth management for emerging Europe at Credit Suisse. 

Many of the bank’s relationship managers have backgrounds in corporate and investment banking, which enables them to better understand client needs and deliver across a broad range of corporate and investment banking opportunities. 

In Russia, increasing numbers of ultra-high-net-worth clients have their own family offices, employing seasoned investment professionals and the bank is investing in a dedicated ultra-high-net-worth investment delivery function for the Russian market. This includes continuing to hire investment professionals that are “true investment partners” to the most sophisticated clients and their family offices, as well as providing clients access to Credit Suisse’s Global Markets trading platforms and institutional-type services. 

In the Middle East, the ultra-high-net-worth client segment provides the biggest source of wealth but entrepreneurial wealth is rising too. “Although still relatively nascent, entrepreneurship is beginning to flourish in the Middle East, as the region’s economic growth prospects diversify from traditional industries and move towards new sectors,” says Bruno Daher, head of international wealth management for the Middle East and Turkey at Credit Suisse. Moreover, as part of a drive to build a self-sustaining non-oil sector, Gulf Co-operation Council countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are building a framework that is more supportive for start-up enterprises and allows for greater competition.

Middle Eastern investors, including Qatari nationals, are looking for global and local solutions that address both their business and personal needs. When compared with other emerging market investors, such as from Asia-Pacific, the Middle Eastern investor has less developed capital markets and local solutions in their own region. “Credit Suisse is well positioned to partner with these clients and support the region’s appetite for a unique, complex and cross-regional offering, utilising our private bank, investment bank and asset management franchise,” explains Mr Daher. 

A further client benefit of this approach is risk diversification. Many clients hold a large portion of their assets in a single country or region, but the bank’s offering of lending against local shares allows the firm to provide clients with the required liquidity, offering diversification and yield enhancement through reinvestment in well-diversified investment solutions. “We can help our clients to diversify internationally without having to sell their assets,” he says.

  • Best Private Bank in Asia
  • Best Private Bank for UHNW Clients
  • Best Private Bank for Sustainable Investing
  • Winner: UBS

The rapid growth of UBS’s discretionary managed sustainable investing portfolios,which have swollen to SFr7bn ($7bn) from at the beginning of 2018, is testament to growing client demand.

“Many clients, not just younger generations, have strong sustainability affinities,” says James Purcell, global head of sustainable and impact investing at UBS Global Wealth Management. “We seek to respond to that demand by offering investment products and services that are highly credible, impactful and, where possible, give the client the opportunity to express their individual personal values.”

Partnerships are critical to innovating in this space. UBS partnered with the World Bank to co-design the world’s first financial benchmarks for publicly traded development bank debt, and then built a financial product with exclusive liquidity terms. In its discretionary managed sustainable investing portfolios, it has tapped the expertise of many investors, including BlackRock and Amundi. 

Clients have also responded positively to the bank’s private market partnerships. It has raised almost SFr500m for its Oncology Impact Fund in partnership with MPM, and has also worked with firms such as KKR and Generation on impact fund launches.

Most recently, UBS partnered with Hermes and Federated Investors to launch the first fixed-income fund in high-yield credit, where environmental, social and governance engagement is at the core of the investment strategy. “While engagement has long been associated with equity investors and their voting power, we feel strongly that the regular contact and refinancing provided by bond investors makes them a key stakeholder for corporates and thus a highly effective engagement partner,” says Mr Purcell. 

UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, sources more than $411bn in client assets from Asia, equivalent to 16% of its $2500bn total assets under management. Asia hosts the highest number of billionaires in the world, more than 800, representing almost 40% of the global billionaire population, according to the UBS PwC Billionaire 2018 report. “The region remains one of the most important sources of new business opportunities for UBS,” says August Hatecke, co-head of UBS Global Wealth Management for Asia. 

The bank has had a presence in the region for more than 50 years and has 12 wealth management offices in 10 locations, with Singapore and Hong Kong its key booking centres. In China, it is also one of the few foreign banks with both onshore branch banking and full securities licences. Its three trading outlets in China offer wealth management services through UBS Securities. 

UBS’s joint venture with Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, announced in June, represents the Japanese market’s “first ever” wealth management partnership with an international financial group and a Japanese trust bank, according to UBS. 

Domestic businesses are expected to become increasingly important for the bank, going forward.

“Many of the bank’s Asian wealth management clients are entrepreneurs, who require a global bank offering wealth management services but also capabilities to advise on and execute complex corporate transactions,” says Mr Hatecke. These include as large asset sales, mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, and other large capital raising activities, and UBS client advisers undergo “specialised additional training modules” to be able to help clients explore these opportunities.

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

Santander Private Banking’s presence stretches across 10 different markets, serving more than 210,000 clients in Europe and the Americas. 

The bank has recently directed efforts towards the integration of its different private banking business in separate countries. Thanks to the introduction of a new global value proposition, local private banking clients are now able to become customers in all the countries where the bank operates. 

In addition, Santander has launched a new segment for the group’s largest clients, offering exclusive products and services for the bank’s most affluent customers. The new segment, called Private Wealth, now has some 1600 clients. Profits in this area have been strong, increasing by 17% in 2018, and by 20% year on year in the first half of 2019. 

Two years ago, Santander made the move to create a dedicated wealth management division, and the area is expected to be one of fastest growing businesses within the group over the next few years. The bank’s goal is “to be the best and most responsible wealth manager in Europe and the Americas”, according to Víctor Matarranz, its head of wealth management.

“In private banking, we will continue to focus on being a global platform that combines the best bankers and investments with the best of the digital world. For example, over the coming months we will completely overhaul our private banking branches in order to introduce a large innovation component,” he adds.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are a pillar of the group’s strategy. “We are creating a complete ESG product offering, and we have experts in the area working with the goal of introducing ESG into the advisory process,” says Mr Matarranz. 

  • Best Private Bank in Andorra
  • Winner: Crèdit Andorrà

Crèdit Andorrà has been strengthening a private banking model that, according to the bank, is more competitive, digital, innovative, demanding and responsible, with an emphasis on service and customer proximity. 

In order to respond to the new paradigms of the banking sector, the bank has implemented a number of changes aimed at consolidating its position in the Andorran financial services market and strengthening its international expansion across Luxembourg, Spain and Miami. 

These included changes to the its corporate governance and leadership structure, and more investment in innovation, placing the customer at the centre of the bank’s digital transformation.

“The banking sector is changing profoundly with regard to digitalisation and the appearance of new actors that are contributing to technological disruption in the sector. Innovation has a key role in the future of the business, especially in terms of designing new products and services that are suitable for customers’ new needs,” says chief executive officer Xavier Cornella.

An example of the bank’s focus on adding value through digital services has been the launch of Merkaat, the first 100% digital investment fund adviser in Andorra, which enables customers to digitally access expert advice at the same time as adapting to their new habits and needs.

“On the one hand, it includes the benefits and efficiency of today’s digital technology and automated services. And on the other, it involves a team of experts who advise the client on how to organise their portfolio and investment decisions,” says Mr Cornella. 

He adds that part of the bank’s added value is the ability to offer global services while maintaining proximity to its customers. “We have also built strategic alliances with third parties that enable our customers to benefit from a wider and independent range of options,” says Mr Cornella.

  • Best Private Bank in Australia
  • Winner: Private Wealth – Westpac Group

Private Wealth is part of the Westpac Group, Australia’s oldest company and bank, founded in 1817. The firm operates a multi-brand strategy, providing services exclusively for the clients of Westpac Private Bank, St George Private and Bank of Melbourne Private. 

The bank’s growth strategy is centred around four main themes: enhanced alignment to the way in which clients wish to engage; further development of investment capabilities for self-directed clients, while continuing to grow the more traditional banking services; greater client access to domestic and global investment opportunities; and a continued focus on up-skilling private bankers.

“I believe both inter-personal and technical skills are essential for a private banker’s success,” says Cathy Yuncken, general manager at Private Wealth. “The time spent in up-skilling the bankers will vary depending on their experience level and time in role. On average, our private bankers will spend about one day per month on their professional development.” 

Private Wealth’s investment team focuses on sourcing, selecting and monitoring institutional and wholesale investment opportunities globally, including wholesale bonds, initial public offerings, domestic and offshore managed funds, structured and alternative products, derivatives and foreign exchange solutions, among others.

For Ms Yuncken, one of the main challenges for private banks operating in Australia is to be able to anticipate the requirements of high-net-worth clients in a bespoke and unique way.

“We are continually looking at how to enhance client satisfaction. Governance also continues to be extremely important to maintain regulatory adherence, as well as anticipating changes to come,” she explains. “In terms of keeping ahead of our competitors, we continue to invest in technology to accelerate our bankers’ ability to respond to client needs and queries, and to provide our clients with a real-time view of the portfolios.” 

  • Best Private Bank in Bahrain
  • Best Private Bank in Egypt
  • Best Private Bank in Kuwait
  • Winner: Ahli United Bank

Despite the recent drop in oil prices, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) region is strategically placed to continue to experience economic growth in the coming years. 

In addition, the rise of corporatisation and the adoption of global compliance standards by family-run businesses has led to an increased demand for more sophisticated wealth management capabilities. Ahli United Bank (AUB) believes itself to be uniquely positioned to cater to this growing demand within the region.

The bank prides itself on having a deep understanding of the changing needs of the GCC and Middle Eastern high-net-worth clients. Its main focus in 2018 was to implement its strategy of creating value through segmentation and products, which led to growth in the client base and helped acquire new money.

During 2018, customer deposits increased by 9% and, despite a difficult economic backdrop and negative movements across asset classes, total assets under management were largely maintained at the same levels as the previous year. AUB has continued to strengthen its private banking business by providing additional human resources to enhance its teams in various locations, and at multiple levels.

The bank’s open architecture model gives clients’ access to both conventional and sharia-compliant investment solutions. Recent product launches have included a capital-protected structured deposits vehicle, a life settlement fund, and a private equity fund focusing on the US retail sector.

Although the bank considers all client segments equally important, it has a special focus on ultra-high-net-worth individuals and is currently developing a platform to attract new money, specifically targeting younger investors, with the view to establishing strategic and long-lasting partnerships with clients. 

  • Best Private Bank in Belgium
  • Winner: BNP Paribas Fortis

BNP Paribas Fortis, the largest private bank in Belgium with more than €62bn in assets under management at the end of 2018, has a key mission, namely to invest 100% of client assets in sustainable investments by 2025. 

Since this goal was set in 2015, the bank has succeeded in growing the proportion from 5% to 30%. “There are enough products and providers today that enable us to increase our socially responsible investing [SRI] penetration. The key challenge is to raise awareness about SRI, which is still too low,” says Stéphane Vermeire, general manager for private banking and wealth management at BNP Paribas Fortis. 

Individuals have started to adopt greener mobility and healthier eating habits, but still do not realise the positive impact they could have by investing in sustainable assets, he adds.  

Over the past few years, the bank has significantly invested in raising internal and external awareness about sustainable investments, training its workforce and educating clients. 

“We are convinced that banks have a huge responsibility to channel capital to ‘future-proof’ companies,” says Mr Vermeire. Sustainable solutions are positioned as the bank’s first and preferred offering, proactively proposed to every client, as opposed to being just one option of its investment range.  As such, they are the ‘new norm’ at BNP Paribas Fortis and have become a key competitive differentiator.

Another key pillar of the bank’s business strategy is to maximise digitalisation and efficiency. “Being customer focused allows you to be more pioneering,” says Mr Vermeire, quoting Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. In that same spirit, he says, BNP Paribas Fortis has developed PaxFamilia, a “digital family office”, in partnership with fintech firm GuiSquare. 

The digital tool enables clients to plan and manage their personal and family wealth. In the digital e-vault, clients can decide to keep documents, contracts, proofs and photos, and choose whom to share this information with. “This initiative has become a huge success,” claims Mr Vermeire. 

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

Butterfield has a long tradition in the banking sector in Bermuda, having established itself as a private bank in 1858. Today, the bank operates across 10 jurisdictions offering community banking, wealth management and trust services.

Its wealth management presence in offshore markets has been enhanced in recent years with a number of acquisitions, and the bank continues to seek opportunities for further expansion.

The firm describes its private banking model as being “high-touch”, built around regular interactions between relationship managers and clients, to foster a high degree of trust. This approach also facilitates growth in the provision of services to include trust and asset management, driving increases in share of wallet among their high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients.

Butterfield provides domestic private banking services in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Guernsey, and has recently launched international wealth banking services for individuals and families with assets and banking and investment interests in multiple international locations.  

In addition to a wide range of asset management services, trust and fiduciary services are a core offering for the company. Here, the bank’s in-house trust experts work closely with the clients’ external legal advisers to create bespoke solutions and specialised structures.

In 2018, Butterfield completed the acquisition of Deutsche Bank’s Global Trust Solutions business, enhancing the scale of its existing trust operations in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Switzerland, and resulting in the addition of a Singapore office to its global trust network.

Despite winding down its UK private banking business in 2016, the group still runs a UK mortgage business, Butterfield Mortgages Limited, serving international clients interested in buying property in London and whose wealth structures and income streams might suit the ‘tick box’ criteria of high street banks in the country. 

  • Best Private Bank in Brazil
  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in Latin America 
  • Winner: Itaú Private Bank

Itaú Private Bank, a subsidiary of Itaú Unibanco, is one of Brazil’s largest private banks by total assets. During 2018, assets under management grew by 18% to reach $110.2bn, while the number of clients increased by 18.3% to 8667.

Much of this growth was due to the bank’s efforts to personalise offerings with products and services that fit clients’ individual needs and preferences, says Luiz Severiano Ribeiro, CEO of Itaú Private Bank. “Returns also play an important role, of course: our portfolios have generated consistent results in the past few years, so clients feel that they can rely on us.” 

In a recent client satisfaction survey, the bank received a net promoter score of 71%, in line with leading companies across all industries. 

The bank has used big data techniques to better anticipate clients’ needs. Implementing the technology, and getting the best out of it, has been “quite a challenge”, says Mr Ribeiro. 

“There is no room for error with a sensitive public as ours. But the large amount of data we do have is helping us learn more about our clients’ habits, education, hobbies and spending patterns, making it possible for us to offer even more personalised products, reports, events and means of communication,” he adds.

While Brazil undergoes political and economic upheaval, Itaú Private Bank’s model includes three practices to “protect clients from economic headwinds”. These are careful product curation, tailored and diversified product portfolios for each client, and offering access to alternatives in the global marketplace.

“Our experienced investment team has a global approach; we generally recommend that our clients allocate 20% to 30% of their portfolios to international assets,” says Mr Ribeiro. 

  • Best Private Bank in Canada
  • Winner: RBC Wealth Management

RBC Wealth Management (RBC WM) describes itself as a “digitally enabled relationship bank” and data is at the forefront of this. The private bank operates in an environment in which “client expectations are increasing, competition and markets are changing, and regulation is becoming more complex,” says Flora Do, vice-president, strategy and client insights at RBC WM. 

The bank is one of the world’s largest wealth managers, with C$1050bn ($780bn) of assets under administration and C$727bn under management as of the second quarter of 2019. It employs more than 5000 financial consultants, advisers, private bankers and trust officers.

The bank works with other RBC divisions to offer “holistic client experiences and solutions”. An example is Client 360, a recently launched partnership between RBC WM and Personal & Commercial Banking in Canada. Using advanced data analytics, it provides a 360-degree view of clients who have relationships across multiple RBC businesses. Data science algorithms and big data technologies help the bank to better understand and anticipate customers’ needs.

“There is more data available and more demands being put on this data – what insights we can find, and how it can help clients and our businesses,” says Ms Do. “Using data in new ways while ensuring client privacy is mission critical in our innovation approach. 

“Collaborating with RBC business and functional partners created an opportunity to take a new approach to sharing data across RBC – with client consent – that ensured we met our commitment to a secure and more personalised experience for our clients.”

The bank plans to expand and further leverage its strategic data assets to enable employees to provide a customised advice experience and more effective and seamless relationship management, regardless of how they choose to interact with RBC.

  • Best Private Bank in Chile
  • Winner: LarrainVial

One of the largest investment banks in Chile, LarrainVial has more than $28bn in assets under management. During 2018, it increased the number of new private clients by 7.1%, bringing the total to 1765. A number of strategies were deployed to attract new clients, including improving the investment offering, financial education, engaging more closely with existing clients and targeting new client groups such as women and millennials.

Underpinning these efforts has been the bank’s open-architecture approach. Gonzalo Córdova, head of wealth management at LarrainVial, says: “We believe that our open-architecture structure is a key advantage for our clients. It allows us to access funds that are best in class. Our financial advisory area is able to review and monitor funds from all over the world and recommend the portfolio it believes is the best option for clients.”

An open-architecture approach not only proves the bank’s independence but also means that its advisory services “are of greater value” and the bank can charge for them, claims Mr Córdova.

The bank segments clients along traditional lines of size and risk but has begun to incorporate goals and lifestyles. For example, young professionals with growing incomes and savings capacity are offered the Voluntary Pension Saving product, which has tax and regulatory benefits to incentivise investment. This enables the bank to offer these clients the same product range that is available to high-net-worth clients. 

“We attempt to understand and incorporate clients’ goals when we build a portfolio – the needs of someone looking to save to buy a house are very different from paying for children’s education or retirement,” says Mr Córdova. “This goal-orientated approach is very popular with our younger investors.” 

  • Best Private Bank in China
  • Winner: ICBC Private Banking

Established more than a decade ago, the private banking division of the Industrial Bank of China (ICBC) targets high-net-worth clients with assets of more than Rmb8m ($1.1m). Headquartered in Shanghai, the bank is also present in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Taiyuan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Jinan, Zhengzhou and Chengdu.

ICBC centres its private banking offering around five core services: financial management, asset management, consulting, value-added solutions and cross-border financial services.

Over the recent past, the bank has reinforced its research capabilities, establishing a research team tasked with analysing financial markets and anticipating macroeconomic trends. It has also strengthened co-operation with other business lines across the group, including investment banking and personal finance divisions, to enhance the services offered to private banking clients.

The range of investment products on offer include a wide range of assets from equity to fixed-income investments, private equity and alternatives, to respond to clients’ requirements in terms of returns, liquidity and safety. 

Recognising the importance that the use of technology has on the quality and efficiency of the interactions between relationship managers and clients, ICBC has established a new platform, e-service, specifically built to enhance the efficiency of its relationship managers. In addition, the use of big data analytics has allowed the bank to explore clients’ needs and behaviours in a deeper and more precise way.

In addition to serving high-net-worth clients, ICBC pays great attention to their children, believing them to be potential future clients. Programmes targeting younger generations include an annual summer camp and the Elite Youth Training Camp in Beijing, which focuses on young people who have already shown good management skills and performance in their family businesses.  

  • Best Private Bank in Colombia
  • Winner: BTG Pactual

BTG Pactual provides wealth management services across the main wealth hubs in Latin America, with offices in Brazil, Colombia and Chile.

In addition, the bank has been taking steps towards growing its presence in the US. In 2016, it opened an office in Miami with the aim of serving clients in this growing financial hub, their investors and the expanding Latin American community in south Florida.

In Colombia, BTG Pactual’s wealth management business is focused on the provision of investment and advisory services to high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients. According to the bank, its one-stop-shop approach is underpinned by a consistent track record, strong cross-selling between business units, a team of experienced professionals and a broad offering of products and services. 

In 2018, the business attracted a record high volume of new assets, helping to consolidate its presence in the Colombian market. Cross-selling with merger and acquisition deals led by the bank’s investment banking unit served as an opportunity to capture net new money from clients.

In addition, the consolidation of the bank’s alternative investment strategy with a broad selection of investment solutions means clients can now access a wide range of investment solutions to diversify their portfolios, with strong return potential, low volatility and controlled risk.

“We are constantly improving the advice process, understanding clients’ financial needs in an integrated manner,” says Juan Rafael Pérez, CEO at BTG Pactual in Colombia. Its recommendations, he adds, are tailor-made and based on a deep analysis of each individual client. 

“This allows us to design a specific investment strategy, the objective of which is to combine tax optimisation vehicles and investment products in local and offshore markets, oriented to maximise the portfolio results.”   

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

In 2018, CSOB Private Banking made a significant change to its business strategy, by starting to offer private banking services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a first in the country for a private bank. The move was driven by increased demand for investment advice from business owners, already clients of the group’s investment bank. 

While the new form of co-operation within the bank was tepidly received by commercial bankers, the synergy between the two divisions is expected to bring significant advantages.

In the long run, business owners will benefit from the professional management of their earnings, which would otherwise be placed in deposits, savings or term accounts, and will also be able to access post-sale services, explains Pavel Tichy, private banking segment management and wealth office director at CSOB Private Banking. 

The new set-up enables the private bank to gain greater specialisation by growing and developing tailor-made solutions for large client portfolios. 

While the growth potential from SMEs is considerable, the largest part of new inflows at CSOB in 2018 derived from the co-operation with the bank’s retail and premium segments. An incentive scheme encouraging affluent bankers to introduce eligible clients to CSOB Private Banking contributed to drive 10% growth in the number of new clients in 2018. 

When it comes to portfolio management, “the most important skill is our long-term experience in serving clients throughout uncertain or shaky periods”, says Mr Tichy. Clients need to understand that success comes in the long run and that sticking to a selected strategy and discipline eventually pays off, he adds.

Looking forward, in volatile and unpredictable markets where conservative fixed-income solutions offer little value, a key goal for the private bank is to improve its offering of investment advisory solutions, as well as enhancing automation of processes and digitalisation. The bank also aims to grow its lending penetration rate, which is in line with the 2% country average, but lags behind the 10% of western European banks. “Central and eastern European clients tend to be more conservative, but their needs should not differ so much,” says Mr Tichy.   

  • Best Private Bank in Denmark
  • Winner: Nykredit Private Banking

For Nykredit Private Banking, personalisation is an important element in its business model; private bankers at the institution have smaller client portfolios than the average for the Danish market, serving between 50 and 100 clients. This allows for more client-facing time, says the bank, and helped it to increase assets under management by 11% to DKr59.7bn ($8.8bn) and grow its client base by 18.2% to 21,464.

The personalised approach also helps the bank to avoid churn. “Today, much focus is on optimising everything, and we tend to neglect what it takes to create a trustful relationship between a client and his or her private banker – the personal contact,” says Lotte Månsson, managing director at Nykredit Private Wealth Management.

One of the bank’s main targets in 2018 was to expand its customer relationships from wealthy individuals to wealthy families. The bank launched a Next Generation project, which targeted high-net-worth-individuals in the 18 to 35 age bracket with more than DKr20m. Clients are offered learning experiences, social events, exclusive memberships and discounts on hotel stays, clothes and more. Communications between clients and their private banker are based on the media they use, such as text and instant chat apps.

“The results of our Next Generation programme have exceeded our expectations,” says Ms Månsson. “We have seen huge interest from our families, who see value in our offering. We have experienced the highest customer satisfaction score among this group of above 90 out of 100, just as we have seen an increase in parents’ satisfaction.” 

  • Best Private Bank in France
  • Winner: BNP Paribas Banque Privée France

With commanding positions in the French and Belgian markets, and strong ambitions in Germany, Luxembourg and Asia, BNP Paribas remains a force to be reckoned with in cross-border wealth management, although the bank’s nerve centre remains in Paris.

Its wealth business now employs 7000 staff, 1300 of them in Asia, where growth in Greater China is seen as the bank’s number one priority. BNP Paribas boasts relationships with 60% of Hong Kong’s tycoons and crucially, these are not local relationships but global ones, which include objectives across Europe, where Chinese investors have been picking up real estate bargains, and the US. Crucial to many of the deals is the close link between wealth management and the corporate and investment banking arm of the bank.

The cross-border nature of the high-net-worth society means French clients are also increasingly booking assets into other centres. “Families often prefer to structure a holding company in Luxembourg,” where staff offer strong family governance services and have expertise in multiple assets, says Vincent Lecomte, co-CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management. 

“For families with members who live in France, Belgium and Italy, it is easier to use Luxembourg to structure their wealth. We have dedicated executives there in wealth planning and credit, who work together with domestic market teams.”

BNP Paribas has been making significant progress in sustainability and impact investing, now offering digital solutions to clients interested in these areas in most key target markets.

But it is important to keep an eye on innovations on French home soil, as the successful ones are likely to receive broader roll-outs in satellite territories.

Recent launches include MyMand@te, a digitalised discretionary portfolio management service allowing clients the choice of hundreds of pre-programmed asset

One of the most notable innovations is the launch of MyImpact, an app allowing clients to invest according to parameters set in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to become more involved in philanthropic work.

  • Best Private Bank in Georgia
  • Winner: TBC Bank

Strong brand recognition and a focus on digital technology helped Georgia’s TBC Bankto increase its private client base by 55.9% in 2018 to reach a total of 50,756. As the largest banking group in Georgia, TBC Bank offers retail banking, micro, small and medium enterprises and corporate and investment banking services. Its customer base represents about 83% of Georgia’s adult population.

In addition to this strong brand recognition, the bank has built on the concept of individually tailored services by unifying credit and operational functions, according to Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO of TBC Bank. This enables customers to be served by a single universal banker. 

In May 2018, the bank launched Georgia’s first fully digital bank, Space, a ‘neo-bank’ that does not operate from physical branches, existing only as a mobile app and completely separate from TBC’s traditional banking business. 

“In all operational aspects, it is a fintech project; from people to processes and culture,” says Mr Butskhrikidze. “In a way, we created our own competitor and the biggest challenge was to develop a truly innovative and customer-centric daily banking experience that will change the way people access their daily financial services.” 

Since its launch, Space has attracted more than 400,000 downloads. 

Going forward, the bank will continue to focus on customer-centric digital services as the customer base for traditional banking is eroded by competition from the big tech platforms. The bank recently acquired a 65% stake in My Group, a leading e-commerce player in Georgia. It operates four online marketplaces: automotive, automotive spare parts, consumer to consumer and housing. 

“The acquisition of My Group is a big leap in the development of our ecosystem strategy, as it will broaden our relationship with customers and create strong synergies for the core banking business, including the lending, payments and insurance businesses,” says Mr Butskhrikidze. 

  • Best Private Bank in Germany
  • Winner: Deutsche Bank Wealth Management

After several years of restructuring, which is still ongoing mainly within its investment banking arm, the largest private bank in Germany has at last won the coveted award for its home turf. 

“What differentiates us in Germany is our German roots and global reach,” says Fabrizio Campelli, global head of Deutsche Bank Wealth Management. “We are able to work with clients both domestically and internationally, supporting them in managing their private wealth and corporate needs.” 

In late 2018, the private bank revised its global coverage structure, bringing Europe and Germany into one market region. With the vision to become a ‘pre-eminent’ pan-European wealth manager, the bank has launched a hiring spree, aimed at recruiting more than 100 front-office professionals. Among its top hires in 2018 were George Crosby, former head of Latin America at HSBC, and Claudio de Sanctis, former head of Europe at Credit Suisse. 

The German private bank, with $220bn in client assets globally at the end of 2018, prides itself in having the ‘broadest’ access to wealthy families, Mittelstand business owners, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, as well as institutional investors, offering them full connectivity to Deutsche Bank’s corporate and investment bank. 

Entrepreneurs continue to be the biggest wealth creators in the country, although they face negative yields and slowing global growth, as in the rest of the world. In this market environment, the bank’s global chief investment officer advises clients to take profits and recalibrate their portfolios, as the global growth slowdown continues. 

The ultra-high-net-worth segment represents the lion’s share of the bank’s revenues, while its dedicated, comprehensive discretionary portfolio management offering provides “very attractive” growth opportunities, says Mr Campelli.

The bank is also focused on engaging with younger clients, having run next-generation events for more than 20 years. Its aim is “to prepare children and grandchildren of clients for their future roles, fostering their personal growth and supporting them in realising their vision”. Deutsche Bank has more than 500 alumni worldwide connected by activities such as the Innovation Summits in California, philanthropy, sustainability activities and through its NextGen app. 

  • Best Private Bank in Greece
  • Winner: Alpha Private Bank

Alpha Private Bank operates an open-architecture approach, working with UK-based Alpha Bank Group company Alpha Bank London, as well as Société Générale Private Banking in Luxembourg. This enables clients to receive advisory services from their private banker in Greece, while the portfolio is kept under foreign custody.

A five-step portfolio management process is applied by the bank: the identification of customer needs; the determination of an investment profile; the mapping out of an investment strategy; the selection of investment products and the creation of a portfolio; and constant monitoring and rebalancing.

Meetings between clients, their private bankers and a dedicated portfolio counsellor are organised on a regular basis to ensure all parties stay updated on the bank’s market view and to support the advisory process. 

The bank has also engaged in a technology programme that acknowledges the evolving digital nature of banking. 

“In order to adjust to the new conditions dictated by the ever-evolving digital era, the bank is gradually implementing its digital strategy in private banking services,” says Emmanouil I Arzinos, manager of the private banking division of Alpha Bank. “We are focusing our efforts on adopting new technologies, further modernising processes and the operating model.”

The bank is developing a Mobile Wealth app that will provide a holistic and detailed view of the investment portfolios, access to statements and reports. “The app will provide an additional interaction channel between the client and the private banker and will make processes faster, easier and paperless,” says Mr Arzinos.

An ongoing process, the digital transformation will enable the bank to streamline procedures, reduce costs and become more efficient and productive, while delivering an improved client journey, according to Mr Arzinos. 

  • Best Private Bank in Hong Kong
  • Best Private Bank in the UK
  • Winner: HSBC Private Banking

While HSBC’s UK head office and much of its infrastructure sit in London, the bank has a strong and growing presence across the country. Having invested strategically in its regional offices over the past two years, these are currently some of the fastest growing teams for HSBC’s private banking operations in the UK.

Operating from offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh, HSBC provides locally based relationship managers, investment specialists and strategic financial planners. Clients from outside of London have access to the full range of private banking products and services.

“In 2019, we have run a series of client events in the regions aimed at entrepreneurs who are looking to transition the ownership of their business,” says Charles Boulton, CEO at HSBC Private Bank UK. “Our quarterly investment outlook programme has been delivered locally to clients across Scotland, the north and the Midlands. We are proud of our regional teams and are fully committed to expanding our presence outside of London.”

The UK market is experiencing significant challenges at the moment, he says, but he believes these present opportunities for global banks to broaden and deepen private client relationships. “We offer our clients increased stability and confidence that comes with being a global financial institution, with a strong balance sheet,” says Mr Boulton.

In Asia, HSBC services private banking clients throughout the region through key onshore hubs in Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China and Taiwan and continues to expand. In September 2018, it announced plans to hire 700 new client team roles in Asia by the end of 2022, most of them in Hong Kong and Singapore. It is also investing heavily in its digital capabilities in the region, including the implementation of a new core banking platform, Avaloq, along with digital initiatives to improve the client experience.

A key opportunity for the bank is the transition of wealth to the next generation, with about $4000bn expected to be passed down to the next generation over the coming 10 years. “Recognising this opportunity we have developed a Next Generation programme to engage with the future business leaders around the world, to better equip them with understanding how to manage and protect their family’s wealth,” says Mr Boulton.

One example of this is the bank’s scheme whereby it takes 15 Next Generation clients for a week-long immersive experience in the jungles of Borneo, with the plan being for them to witness first-hand the impact of climate change and learn how they can build sustainability into their family business models.   

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

OTP Group is one of the most active consolidators in the central and eastern Europe (CEE)/Commonwealth of Independent States region, having recently completed or announced acquisitions in Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Moldova and Montenegro. By the end of 2019, it will have almost 18.5 million customers across 12 countries in the regions.

This regional approach and acquisitions have led to a unique business model for the bank’s private banking division. “The integration of the private banking business arm is among the most challenging parts of the job, since despite being in the same CEE region, there are big differences among the wealth markets of the countries,” says András Takács, managing director and head of wealth and investment management at OTP Bank Hungary. “There are considerable specialities regarding the investment attitude, sophistication level and, of course, the needs of the private banking clients.”

Private banking models, based on regional group-wide standards, are applied according to the market position and coverage of the local OTP bank but local specialties, development levels of the local wealth markets and different client attitudes are also considered. 

This approach proves to be very effective in a region which is defined as unified but where huge diversity is reflected between the countries, according to Mr Takács. 

By the end of this year, OTP will offer a dedicated, digital-only, self-service product, DirektPB. “The new concept will be provided by a centralised virtual private banking hub based on remote elements, hybrid asset management solutions and new generation contact forms,” says Mr Takács.

The bank has a dual purpose in launching DirektPB: to improve the client experience and at the same time increase its range of services. The new generation of private banking clients are more open to digital and online banking and do not require personal contact, even in private banking, insists Mr Takács. 

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

Kotak Wealth Management, the private banking arm of India’s Kotak Mahindra Bank, is one of the oldest wealth managers in India. It manages wealth for about 40% of India’s top 100 families. The bank recently significantly altered its business model, moving from a transaction-oriented focus to an advisory approach. 

During 2018, the bank launched a campaign, Voice of the Customer, to gather client feedback. It also uses international standards to assess service quality and undertakes yearly audits to monitor performance. Also during 2018, the bank launched KWealth, an SMS service with dedicated staff that ensures clients are called back within 30 minutes.

Other forms of client engagement include programmes such as NexGen Connect, a two-day annual programme for millennial clients that is designed to help them make informed investment decisions. The bank also conducts tutorials on investment for the spouses of existing clients. 

New exclusive product offerings and a greater emphasis on non-investment products such as credit and banking have been used by the bank to expand relationships beyond investments. Offerings include the Kotak Wealth Infinite credit card, which provides a higher credit limit and exclusive and personalised features along with a portrait of the cardholder on the card. The bank also offers a set of digital self-service financial management tools to enable clients to control their finances themselves. 

In the alternative space, Kotak pioneered the distribution and referral of India’s first real estate investment trust, Embassy REIT. The bank also distributed the largest venture debt fund in India, enabling clients to earn regular high yields as well has obtain warrants in promising start-ups. The bank also introduces clients to promising start-ups to encourage direct investment. 

  • Best Private Bank in Italy
  • Winner: Banca Generali

Banca Generali’s continued strong growth and financial solidity are testament to its ability to understand and cater to client needs, which it also meets through establishing strategic partnerships.

The bank, which manages €63bn in client assets, recognises that the country’s ageing demographic is a key challenge and has developed a strong focus on helping clients protect their wealth and plan for the future. Only Japan has more elderly people than Italy, with 20% of its population aged 65 and over. “Today, the wealth gap between the young and the old has stretched to the widest on record, and this is why succession planning services are among the most sought after by our clients,” says Gian Maria Mossa, CEO at Banca Generali. Wealth planning services are also highly in demand because 99% of Italian firms are small and medium-sized enterprises, and mostly family run. Inheritance tax is low, compared with other countries, but there is uncertainty about how long this will last, given the Italy’s high public debt. 

Banca Generali’s proprietary advisory platform allows private bankers to monitor a client’s entire wealth across financial and real estate assets, while enabling clients to define their inheritors, the statutory portion of their inheritance and the impact of taxation. 

To meet client demand, Banca Generali has recently introduced a new range of advisory services dedicated to entrepreneurs, allowing them to compare their firm’s performance and sustainability against competitors in their sector and better plan for the future. The bank’s partnership with PwC and law firms offers entrepreneurs access to a range of related services. Through the platform provided by Danish fintech Saxo Bank, the Italian bank offers corporates with international exposure dynamic hedging of foreign currency exposure.

The bank has also expanded its range of products and service tools in the advisory space. Bespoke technology developed in partnership with UBS in 2018 scans client portfolios daily and assesses them against risk profiles, quality criteria and investment goals, helping private bankers better manage portfolio risk and provide investment recommendations. 

The alliance with Saxo Bank has led to the creation of a new entity, BG-Saxo, providing clients with the opportunity to trade online instruments such as equities, bonds and exchange-traded funds. The partnership also allows the Italian bank to develop a fast client onboarding process.

While Italian private wealth is still largely linked to real estate, representing €5200bn of the €9000bn total wealth in the country, it is important clients diversify from this traditional asset class, where prices are at historical lows, according to Mr Mossa. 

In addition to insurance-based solutions, thematic funds and absolute return strategies, in 2018 the bank launched a new Luxembourg Sicav of alternative and illiquid funds, in partnership with more than 20 third-party managers. The range is focused on long-term themes such as sustainability, technological innovation and demographics. Working with London-based adviser Mainstreet Partners, Banca Generali has also introduced a new advisory sustainable investment platform, where investment portfolios are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The technology allows private bankers to build portfolios focused on specific sustainable goals, those most important to each individual client, and also measure the impact of each investment along environmental, social and governance themes.   

In 2018, Banca Generali acquired Valeur Fiduciaria, a wealth management boutique based in Switzerland, which signalled the start of a targeted international expansion, expected to take shape in 2020. The move was driven by the need to meet increasing client demand for diversifying the custody of assets across different booking centres. 

“In addition to securing a banking licence, we are considering adding new services to build a proper Italian wealth management hub in Switzerland,” says Mr Mossa. 

  • Best Private Bank in Kenya
  • Best Private Bank in Nigeria
  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in Africa
  • Winner: Standard Bank Wealth and Investment 

The mission statement at Standard Bank Wealth and Investment is simple: to be the leading high-net-worth wealth business for sub-Saharan clients and those who are interested in Africa.

In light of changing client expectations, the bank has focused on transitioning from a product-led proposition to one that is insight-led, with the aim being to increase client confidence and loyalty. Its ‘Challenger’ model personalises sales messages, provides insight into unique client needs and challenges and tries to enable more informed decision making. 

In a bid to better understand its clients, Standard Bank commissioned a study to gain insight into Africa’s wealthy population. Key themes to emerging from the report include: that Africa’s wealthy accumulate and spend their wealth in unique ways, and enjoy personalised, bespoke wealth management experiences; a host of factors concern Africa’s wealthy and safeguarding their wealth is paramount; while philanthropy is viewed in the context of ‘giving back’.

Innovations in 2018 included its Elite model portfolio range, managed by Stanlib Multi-Manager under a discretionary fund management mandate which allows wealth managers to focus on offering holistic wealth management advice, and its first third-party retail investor hedge fund solution. Meanwhile, its limited endowment product was the first sharia-compliant tax-efficient endowment policy in South Africa.

On the digital front, the My360 app officially launched in April 2019. The aim is to provide clients with a 360-degree view of their wealth portfolio and the wealth manager has access to what the client sees, which enables deeper client relationships. The hope is that My360 will increase advisers’ productivity and efficiency. 

  • Best Private Bank in Korea
  • Winner: KEB Hana Bank

Despite the challenging economic situation in the country, South Korea’s KEB Hana Bank has continued to grow. Total assets under management in its private banking business reached $54.4bn in 2018, with growth at a solid 8.6%.

The number of private clients was up too, reaching 37,743, an increase of 1796. This was enough to keep it narrowly ahead of Kookmin and Shinhan, with KEB boasting 28.82% of the high-net-worth client market, against its rivals’ 28.49% and 25.78%, respectively.

Since the launch of its private and investment banking business model between KEB Hana Bank (KHB) and Hana Financial Investment (HFI) in 2013, collaboration between the different parts of the business has increased. 

“We have accelerated collaboration under our ‘One Wealth Management’ strategy across the organisation, personnel, sales channels, products, brands and marketing activities,” says Mr Jaechul Lee, general manager of the private banking business department at KEB Hana Bank. 

He highlights meetings within the group, called Matching Days, which staff from KHB and HFI participate in regularly, the aim being to strengthen relationships and expand common consensus. In addition, wealth management workshops have been held annually for all private bankers within Hana Financial Group, covering market trends, investment strategy, knowledge sharing and more.

The bank aims to provide its private banking clients with a “truly family office service”, says Mr Lee, catering not only to individuals, but to their families as well. 

“It is the concept of ‘cradle to grave’, focusing on total life care services including kids’ programmes for the third generation, match-making for second, through to wedding car and funeral support services,” he explains.

There are plans to develop these family life care services further, for example by launching products targeting grandparents, which provide both pension investments for the elder generation along with protection for their grandchildren. 

  • Best Private Bank in Lebanon
  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in the Middle East 
  • Winner: Audi Private Bank

The conclusion of the legal unification of Bank Audi’s private banking units under the umbrella of a global and dedicated new business franchise, BAPB Holding, based in Cyprus, took place in 2018. According to the bank, the consolidation has created better synergies and accountability across the group, as well as more effective management and improved governance. 

Moving forward, BAPB’s strategy is to continue its growth plans, strengthening its business model, risk management and control framework, and operational infrastructure.

The bank has grown its range of services and investment products offered to private banking clients. In 2018, it launched a Global Opportunities certificate, an equity-based vehicle that invests globally in equities, exchange-traded funds and options. This vehicle offers clients access “to BAPBs equity team’s best trading strategies through a pooled vehicle structure”, claims a spokesperson.

In response to client demand, BAPB introduced a new discretionary mandate investing according to sustainable and responsible investment criteria. A spokesperson for the bank says: “We have found that such an approach no longer penalises investors for caring about the environment and social progress. On the contrary, responsible investing is now in a position to meet or beat traditional approaches. This creates the attractive option for socially motivated investors to invest their wealth profitably in a manner that is aligned with their values.”

The needs of private clients across the Middle East and north Africa region have been evolving quickly, and BAPB relies heavily on its local presence to adapt and react to these changes. “On the other hand, markets are becoming increasingly complex as the political/geopolitical aspects have been added to the equation, making predictions more difficult and the outlook more opaque,” says the spokesperson. “This complexity has called for more frequent communication with clients, as well as more innovative investment solutions.”  

  • Best Private Bank in Luxembourg
  • Best Private Bank in the Netherlands
  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in Europe
  • Winner: ING

Clients are demanding more from private banks and they want it faster. ING claims to be continuously working to improve and optimise its services, considering which solutions, digital or otherwise, could contribute towards achieving an even better client experience. For example, the global CX Hackathon sees ING staff from across the globe collaborate on highly focused efforts aimed at improving the customer experience. Meanwhile, the bank’s structured innovation process, known as PACE, encourages the rapid launch of new products and services developed by small, autonomous, cross-disciplinary teams. The aim is to only deploy resources when it is clear the innovation will improve the client experience, with killing off non-viable products crucial. 

ING is a firm believer in both face-to-face and digital channels. “We’re in the middle of a transformation to becoming a next-generation private bank,” says Ruud van Dusschoten, director of private banking and wealth management at ING. “One which can tailor to the needs of new generations of private banking clients.”

In 2018, ING added video calling to its services and is actively offering this option to clients, though it stresses there is no obligation for them to partake, nor is there for its other digital offerings. It claims that both clients and staff alike appreciate the new channel, and 10% of interactions now take place via video calls, a number which it predicts will rise in the future.

ING’s mobile app has also seen considerable growth, and the bank claims these digital channels allow it to maintain the same high levels of private banking services while improving the efficiency of its employees. Indeed, despite the volume of private clients having risen by 7% in 2018, the number of client facing staff dropped slightly. 

  • Best Private Bank in Malaysia
  • Winner: Maybank 

Maybank is the largest company by market capitalisation on the Malaysian bourse and one of the top five largest banks in south-east Asia.

Maybank’s private banking strategy is divided into three segments: Maybank Private for high-net-worth individuals, Maybank Premier for the affluent, and Maybank Privilege for the emerging affluent.

Market volatility and the need to adapt quickly to the increased and rapid digitalisation of the sector are two of the main challenges facing the bank and its peers. 

In addition, product differentiation among competitors is becoming increasingly difficult. “Product capabilities are quite similar between private banks in Malaysia, hence the need for more open architecture and more choice of bespoke investment solutions and products,” says Carolyn Leng, head of Maybank Private Malaysia.

Ms Leng argues that the bank’s extensive geographical footprint across eight countries gives it a competitive advantage, with Maybank leveraging its global network, capabilities and resources to provide clients with end-to-end solutions. 

Recent initiatives include the launch of Maybank’s Lombard Credit, a multi-foreign currency credit facility that provides liquidity for reinvestments. “This means that customers who plan to invest in a foreign asset may borrow in the same currency as their targeted investment. The ability to borrow and invest in foreign currencies allows our customers to hedge themselves should the ringgit weaken,” says Ms Leng.

Another significant development has been the introduction of trust advisory services within Maybank Private, to better cater to high-net-worth clients’ wealth protection and succession needs. “Through this initiative, we advise on local and offshore structures, both conventional and Islamic, to help clients plan their estate and legacy for future generations,” adds Ms Leng.

With the launch of its Wealth Management Academy in 2018, Maybank became the first bank in Malaysia with an educational centre for the sole purpose of training and enhancing the capabilities and professionalism of its sales force. 

  • Best Private Bank in Mauritius
  • Winner: MCB Private Banking and Wealth Management

MCB Private Banking and Wealth Management, part of the Mauritius Commercial Bank, has further consolidated its position in the country’s private banking sector, growing its presence domestically and across the region.

The private bank is currently engaged in a transformation programme aimed at reinforcing its strategic position in Mauritius and supporting further expansion into Africa and beyond. The programme is looking to redefine the bank’s value proposition, optimising its operating model and setting up the foundations to foster the right international business culture.

MCB’s wealth management services range from financial and succession planning, to legal and fiscal advice for protecting wealth and specialised advisory services for clients and entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow a business.

Its investment management offering includes discretionary portfolio management, investment advisory and custodian services. The bank also provides investment management services, trading, custody and transactional services to external asset managers and financial intermediaries. 

MCB claims its reputation in the local market has facilitated the task of attracting and retaining talent. “Our challenge today is that with the advent of social media recruitment, competition to recruit the best talent is no longer limited to the local market,” says deputy head François Desvaux de Marigny. The bank has appointed a people strategy partner to focus on anticipating and responding to the latest human capital needs and requirements.

“Locally, we are the sole institution to have received approval from the Bank of Mauritius to distribute bespoke structured products to high-net-worth clients,” he says. “Beyond this, we remained focused on international client acquisition, in line with a key growth pillar of the bank, which is to expand private banking into Africa. This has resulted in a notable growth in our foreign client base.” 

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

In early 2019, BBVA announced the unification of its brand worldwide, waving goodbye to all the group’s local names, including Mexico’s Bancomer.

Bancomer’s private banking division now operates under the BBVA Private Banking Mexico name, but its strategy has remained unchanged, focusing on consolidating its position as one of Mexico’s leading private banks.

Over recent years, the bank has redefined its approach to customer relations, moving away from just providing financial products, to offering clients a full range of services to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. The adoption of new strategies and technologies have made a crucial contribution towards achieving this objective.

In 2018, the bank developed its Wealth Management Customer Journey, with the aim of better understanding clients’ needs, not just in terms of their assets and investment portfolios but also regarding significant life events that require financial planning.

BBVA also introduced Digital Work Place – an integrated solution powered by Salesforce and with Lenovo Thinkpad equipment – that allows private bankers to visualise customers’ personal data and linked banking products, design personalised portfolios and identify new business opportunities. 

In addition, the bank’s mobile app was revamped recently. Built upon an ‘all-in-one’ strategy, the app now acts as a single platform to access digital sales, operation notifications and banker communications, to name a few.

One of the core financial solutions available to BBVA’s private banking clients is Multiestrategia Libre Bancomer, a product that combines a life insurance structure with an investment portfolio strategy, and a specialised lending product, all under a tax-efficient structure.  

The bank’s offering in terms of financial and non-financial solutions has continued expanding. In 2018, BBVA became the first private bank in Mexico to issue a green bond. 

  • Best Private Bank in Monaco
  • Best Private Bank for Thematic Investing
  • Winner: Banque J Safra Sarasin (Monaco)/Bank J Safra Sarasin Sarasin & Partners 

Banque J Safra Sarasin embraced thematic investing more than 30 years ago, and prides itself in being one of the industry pioneers in this space. The investment approach starts by identifying multi-decade mega-trends and key structural themes expected to shape the world. 

The current environment provides good hunting ground for thematic funds, as investors today are challenged by slow economic growth in a rapidly changing world. “A thematically led investment process enables us to identify the global companies that can thrive in this era of disruption,” explains Jeremy Thomas, head of thematic equities at Sarasin & Partners, the J Safra Sarasin Group’s London-based asset manager. “Where there is disruption there is opportunity, as investors typically underappreciate the duration or magnitude of change,” he adds.

Thematic investing appeals to private clients. Mega-themes such as digitalisation, automation, ageing or climate change are intentionally ubiquitous, and therefore easy for investors to appreciate and understand. 

Sarasin’s core equity strategies draw from these themes to find individual companies best placed to exploit growth opportunities, each stock having its own idiosyncratic investment case. This investment process allows the firm to build high-conviction, concentrated portfolios, highly differentiated from broad indices. This is also the key risk around thematic investing, according to Mr Thomas, as investors have to accept the inevitable volatility that comes with equity securities and understand that returns may differ markedly from market indices in the shorter term. Environmental, social and governance as well as sustainability considerations are embedded in every stage of Sarasin’s thematic investment process.

The Swiss bank started operating in Monaco in 2006, and furthered its commitment with the acquisition of Credit Suisse Monaco, completed in 2017. The bank now has more than 120 people managing almost Ä9bn in assets in the country. Clients benefit from multicultural and multilingual teams offering one of the largest trading rooms in Monaco, ensuring close relationships with its clients, explains Pierfilippo Castellano, CEO of Banque J Safra Sarasin (Monaco). 

  • Best Private Bank in New Zealand
  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in Australasia
  • Winner: ANZ Private Bank – New Zealand

In 2018, ANZ Private Bank continued to grow its business in the small but competitive New Zealand market, increasing its assets under management by 13% to $18bn and growing its operating profit by more than 16%. 

“Our success is a reflection of the consistency of our long-term strategy,” says Craig Mulholland, managing director of the wealth and private bank. He adds that its “relentless focus” on putting clients first and developing personal relationships contributing to the boost in client numbers. At the same time, the bank’s ability to manage margins and improve efficiency, along with an increased focus on key segments such as migrant investors and family office/ultra-high-net-worth clients, drove the growth of operating profit.

New Zealand’s reputation as a stable and inclusive country makes it an increasingly attractive place to live. “We are receiving an increasing number of enquiries from investors around the world including those from Asia, Europe, the UK and the US,” says Mr Mulholland.

“In our experience, migrant investors value a partner who can help introduce them to networks and business opportunities in their new country.” 

For migrant clients planning to come to New Zealand on a ‘Migrant Investor’ visa, the bank can help streamline the process by structuring portfolios and reporting, to help meet Immigration New Zealand (INZ) requirements, thanks in part to a memorandum of understanding with INZ, which allows the bank to work directly with it on behalf of migrant clients. 

To respond to the needs of the rapidly growing Asian population in the country, which  represents an increasing proportion of the bank’s client base, ANZ has set up a dedicated, full-service, multi-lingual Asian private banking team. In 2018, it also translated its website and client surveys into Chinese; both initiatives were a first in New Zealand. The bank also holds exclusive events for Asian clients, while also taking part in events on the ground in Asia.

Independent research carried out in 2018 shows that client satisfaction with ANZ continues to grow: 91% of clients are ‘very satisfied’ with the service, and nine out of 10 would highly recommend the bank to others.

The ability to meet all clients’ needs from a single point of contact; a personalised service; proactive and real-time communication to update clients on key market events and their impact on portfolios; transparency; and offering of diversified portfolios, including alternative solutions, are more important than ever in current times of uncertainty, adds Mr Mulholland.   

  • Best Private Bank in Oman
  • Winner: Bank Muscat

Private wealth has been rapidly increasing in the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, including Oman. During the past decade, Bank Muscat Private Banking has built up $1.34bn in client assets. 

“Besides maintaining a constant focus to reach out to new customers and garner new assets under management, we have also been able to leverage the bank’s internal network quite effectively in growing our book and fee income,” says Abdulnasir Al Raisi, deputy general manager, premier banking, at Bank Muscat. 

“Cross-selling, which has been the key focus for the bank’s different divisions, has helped private banking immensely in being able to offer its platform and services to high-net-worth individuals in other divisions of the bank,” he adds.

Mr Al Raisi describes this as a “win-win solution”, not only for private banking, but also for the other divisions within Bank Muscat. Clients who were previously exposed only to banking solutions can now avail themselves of the private bank’s investment platform. 

An emphasis on customer service is driven from the top management, says Mr Al Raisi, and the bank has upgraded its internal customer service system and conducts regular feedback sessions with clients to ensure any problem areas are improved.

In the year ahead, Bank Muscat plans to increase its client base, assets under management and fee income as competition from local and international banks increases. “Our strong platform already gives us an edge in terms of bringing the best international investments to our clients across all asset classes. The team is always looking for different investment opportunities for its clients besides the traditional assets of equity and fixed income such as real estate and private equity,” says Mr Al Raisi. 

  • Best Private Bank in Poland
  • Winner: mBank

mBank started offering private banking services in Poland in 1995. The bank has recently undertaken the task of analysing behavioural patterns of its retail clients and managed to identify a previously untapped customer base. The analysis also showed significant misconceptions about private banking among retail clients.

“To tackle this, we have changed our marketing, PR and internal communications approach to strengthen our image as a wealth manager who helps with complex wealth needs – from short-term investments to succession planning vehicles,” says Krzysztof Bratos, head of private banking at mBank. 

When it comes to investment advice, building a long-term relationship with clients is a key aspect of mBank’s strategy, something that on occasions has involved sacrificing short-term gains. In recent times, the bank has removed a number of high-revenue products from its offering, ceased partnerships and moved away from absolute sales targets. 

“We decided to fully focus on diversified, liquid and predictable solutions, offered only by companies with top-of-the-class risk management and corporate governance,” says Mr Bratos. “We recently summarised our approach in one sentence: we are the only company that spends more time analysing what not to offer to our clients, rather than what to offer.” 

Generally, Polish investors are still very home biased, and mBank has directed resources into educating clients about the importance of diversification. The bank’s advised portfolios are mostly made of foreign investments and implemented through mutual funds managed by reputable asset managers.

Discretionary mandate portfolios are also highly diversified by sector and geography, with Polish equities accounting for less than 20% of total assets. “Based on our research, assets of non-mBank Polish clients are on average still invested 90% in Poland,” adds Mr Bratos.

mBank has recently launched the first environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy in Poland and is working on applying ESG screening across all its investment strategies.  

  • Best Private Bank in Portugal
  • Winner: Millennium bcp

During the past few years, Millennium bcp, the largest private bank in Portugal, has focused on developing an advisory model based on externally certified private bankers and accredited investment specialists. During 2018, the bank acquired 286 net new customers.

Other innovations at the bank have included the migration to a new commercial front end that will support its regulatory compliance requirements. “Migrating to a fully digital operational interface brought about major improvements in compliance [auditable digital trails], compatibility with all available retail banking solutions [making the most of synergies between customer segments], process swiftness and consequently improved customer experience,” says Rui Coimbra, head of private banking and the general manager at Millennium bcp. 

The migration was a ‘stage in a process’ of progressively switching to digital interfaces in day-to-day interaction with customers. This will help the bank’s private bankers to dedicate more time to managing customers’ wealth during face-to-face interactions, says Mr Coimbra. While this change posed some “adaptation challenges” as less personal interaction might have been interpreted as less support, the roll-out of digital technology in customer relationships was a priority.

The bank is also developing a service model for execution customers that includes off-the-shelf products from in-house and third-party sources, research information on third-party products and equity/debt markets, and the support of a market specialist team. 

“Our aim is to maximise the profitability of our intermediation infrastructure,” says Mr Coimbra. The model will be implemented from the third quarter of 2019 and throughout 2020.

During the next few months, the bank is also focusing on non-high-net-worth target clients, with a proposition that includes a comprehensive execution offer, advisory and/or portfolio management services and retail banking credit. The service will be delivered via online and mobile channels. Customer satisfaction drives loyalty when these individuals become high-net-worth individuals, according to Mr Coimbra. 

  • Best Private Bank in Romania
  • Winner: Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen
  • Raiffeisen Bank Romania

Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen Private Banking is the private banking arm of Vienna-headquartered Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI), one of the leading international banking groups in central and eastern Europe (CEE) and Russia.

In 2018, as part of an all-encompassing Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II project, RBI focused its strategy around the implementation of a new advisory process for its private banking segment, the introduction of new product strategies and the launch of its new Financial Advisory Tool (FAT).

According to the bank, the introduction of FAT has allowed the investment advisory service and customer interaction to move up a level. Designed to meet specific private banking advisory needs, the tool gives easy access to detailed information about a client’s portfolio, showing positions and the degree of deviation from the advice given by the bank, as well as providing comprehensive information on portfolio risk levels and performance, among other features. 

The bank’s strategy in Romania has been focused on regional expansion, with growth mainly driven by increased local awareness of the brand.

“Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen is a brand well recognised among private banking customers in Romania. Although we had some changes in the way we provide part of our investment services in Romania, 2018 confirmed once again that our customers are willing to move forward alongside us into the new regulatory and business environment,” explains Markus Plank, head of the international affluent and private banking division at RBI.

Mr Plank believes CEE offers strong growth potential for those combining traditional banking services with the latest technological solutions. The bank plans to continue to strengthen its presence across the region and deepen its three-tier advisory infrastructure – discretionary portfolio management, model portfolios and non-advisory services – by means of new technologies and skilled private bankers. 

  • Best Private Bank in Singapore
  • Winner: Bank of Singapore

A private bank subsidiary of OCBC Bank, Bank of Singapore operates on an open-architecture platform, enabling it to be “independent and work with strategic global partners”, says Olivier Denis, global market head for Singapore, Malaysia and international at Bank of Singapore.

Partners include Blackstone, BlackRock and Lion Global. The open-architecture approach is complemented by an in-house research team of 30 analysts and product specialists covering more than 1000 securities and 30 currencies.

“The majority of private wealth in Asia is generated by entrepreneurs,” says Mr Denis. “Being an Asian private bank, we are committed to serving the needs of entrepreneurs in Asia. We understand the Asian markets, cultures and risk profiles.”

Increasingly, entrepreneurs want private banks that can look after not only their personal finances, but also their business finances. Bank of Singapore has teamed up with OCBC Bank to offer wide-ranging consumer and business services such as bancassurance, real estate financing and investment banking services.

A highlight of the past year was a strategic partnership with Indian financial services company Edelweiss Group. Under the deal, Bank of Singapore is offering its global investment solutions and Edelweiss is contributing wealth solutions and investment opportunities in India.

“This partnership will allow us to significantly raise our profile in one of Asia’s fastest growing wealth markets through one of India’s largest industry players,” says Mr Denis.

The bank also launched BOS Wealth Management in Europe. Based in Luxembourg and with a branch in London, the subsidiary offers a range of private banking solutions and investment advisory services to clients in the European Economic Area and the UK.   

  • Best Private Bank in Slovakia
  • Winner: Tatra banka

During the past two-and-a-half years, Tatra banka has increased its assets under management by 25%, from  €2bn to  €2.5bn. During the past year, it increased the number of its private banking clients by 5.5%. 

Marek Neckár, head of private banking at Tatra banka Slovakia, says the increase was due to a number of factors, including maximising its customer acquisition strategy, changing the key performance indicators of relationship managers and tailoring offerings for new clients. 

Innovative technology underpins the bank’s offerings. It was the first bank in Slovakia to introduce face biometrics, which enable new clients to open online accounts. It also uses voice biometry as an authorisation tool. The Tatra banka internet banking app was also the first in Slovakia to be compatible with smart watches. 

One of the biggest challenges in being an innovative bank, claims Mr Neckár, is to align group-level requirements with a sense of local customs and needs. “The implementation itself, influenced by data quality, was also a challenge,” he says. “We pay a lot of attention to communication with relationship managers in order to reduce resistance to upcoming innovations. Tatra banka is considered to be the most innovative bank in the region. Over the past year, there have been major changes in the selection and implementation of innovation projects. This fact positively influences the identification and implementation of projects with the highest added value for the clients.”

During the first half of 2019, the bank launched the Family Principle service. This is focused on clients’ children and involves the construction of products such as ‘family’ credit cards to extend the bank’s offerings beyond the individual private banking client. 

  • Best Private Bank in South Africa
  • Winner: Investec

One of the main reasons wealth has eroded over the generations is the absence of a wealth plan for family money, claims Henry Blumenthal, head of Investec Wealth & Investment South Africa. For this reason, the bank “works hard” at developing relationships with families and ensuring that its offerings bring together family banking and wealth management needs “across the generations”.

A survey of Investec’s high-net-worth clients revealed that only 21% felt ready to transfer their wealth to the next generation, while just 11% believed the next generation was ready to handle the transfer.

To address this, Investec includes younger people early on in conversations about financial markets and family money. Because such clients prefer to engage digitally, Investec’s My Investments digital platform gives them access to the bank’s suite of products at a much younger age and with lower investment minimums.

Investec’s digital approach is not restricted to the younger generation. It has a ‘big five’ of digital projects, which include cyber security measures, a blockchain-based identity system, smart technology (such as in-app messaging on the Investec app that provides secure access to Investec Online) and international payments.

The bedrock of Investec’s offering in South Africa is One Place, which offers access to investments, both globally and locally, through an app. 

“Increasingly, wealthy South African families are becoming global citizens who wish to operate, bank and invest globally but continue to live in South Africa,” says Mr Blumenthal. “We view technology as a key enabler that supports the relationship between clients and their private banker and investment manager. We believe the role of technology is to enhance, not to replace, the human experience.” 

  • Best Private Bank in Spain
  • Winner: CaixaBank

Technological innovation is a fundamental element in CaixaBank’s overall strategy, including its private banking model. The bank’s ongoing adaptation to the digital world has resulted in the reinforcement of its advisory processes with new digital platforms, investment in robo-advisers, and the introduction of ‘ready-to-buy’ and ‘stop-and-go’ processes. 

CaixaBank’s private banking clients can now access Ocean, the first third-party fund platform in Spain to offer customised information and conditions for each client according to their advisory service package.

“The Ocean platform has been developed to afford the maximum level of transparency regarding the total costs that a client assumes in their fund management activities,” says executive director Víctor Allende. Through a digital interface, clients are able to select and purchase from more than 2000 funds from more than 140 managers. 

According to the bank, Ocean is also the first platform in the country to include information on the sustainability of funds as a selection criterion, helping clients in their decision making when looking for investment vehicles with socially responsible investment criteria. 

“As well as the launch of Ocean, we have continued with our strategy of launching new alternative products,” says Mr Allende. These investments currently represent €2bn, shared among 16 different vehicles. “In this sense, 9.8% of private banking clients have alternative products, 2.8% more than in 2017.” 

The growth of CaixaBank’s private banking business in 2018 was supported by a strategy built around offering clients a more transparent business model that adapts to individual needs.

“The enforcement of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II in 2018 has been one of the most relevant milestones for the sector and a great opportunity for CaixaBank. Our ongoing advisory model has been reinforced, while our independent advisory model has also been implemented,” says Mr Allende. “This allows our customers to decide the pricing model they prefer with maximum transparency.” 

  • Best Private Bank in Taiwan
  • Winner: CTBC Bank

Founded in 1966, CTBC has grown to become one of Taiwan’s largest privately owned banks. In addition to its 152 domestic branches, the bank has the most extensive international network of any Taiwanese financial institution, with more than 100 offices spread across the Asia-Pacific region and North America.

Knight Frank’s 2019 Wealth Report shows that eight out of the top 10 fastest growing wealthy populations reside in Asia, with Taiwan ranking eighth for the number of individuals worth more than $30m. 

In 2018, and in order to differentiate and improve the quality of services aimed at ultra-high-net-worth individuals, CTBC launched a dedicated business unit, Private Privilege, offering access to a combination of in-house investment products and external open-architecture platforms, and leveraging CTBC Holdings resources to provide comprehensive financial services covering individual needs, family succession planning and support for entrepreneurs. 

Succession planning is top of the agenda for many Taiwanese high-net-worth individuals. With this in mind, CTBC is planning to launch a family wealth governance service. “We will work with accounting and law firms to offer more complete family governance services, such as global asset allocation, family governance, business succession planning and philanthropy management,” says Amy Yang, head of the retail banking business management group. 

CTBC has been at the forefront of technology adoption in the country. In 2018, the bank revamped its Home Bank app, which has become one of the most used apps in the country with 2.8 million users. It has also established CTBC Brain, an internal big data platform, designed to leverage vast amounts of data to better understand client behaviour. 

“CTBC Bank is going to bring digital banking to the next level via conversational banking, which enables human-like consumer banking by leveraging data and artificial intelligence techniques,” says Ms Yang. 

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

During 2018, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) formed a joint venture with Julius Baer Singapore to provide ultra-high-net-worth clients with holistic advisory services. In April 2019, the joint venture, SCB Julius Baer, received approval and licences to operate in Thailand.

The move was recognition of the cross-border nature of private wealth and the in-depth financial expertise required to manage it. 

“As a private bank, we understand that an extensive product range is critical to being our client’s trusted partner to manage their wealth,” says an SCB spokesperson. “Hence, we embarked on an aggressive product expansion programme in 2018 to enable our clients to access diversified financial solutions through us, as their trusted partner in wealth.”

An acquisition campaign in 2018 of individuals in vocations that have been identified as of high wealth potential, such as doctors, helped SCB to record 53.5% growth in private clients. It claims a customer share of 70% of all doctors in Thailand. “We found this sub-segment has a strong appetite for sophisticated investment, but does not have time to carefully study investment opportunities,” says the spokesperson. 

The bank set up a small taskforce, experienced in serving doctors, to provide investment advisory at doctors’ workplaces.

The bank also embarked on a programme to identify ‘hidden gems’ – clients with significant or potential wealth – among its existing client base. This exercise revealed 700 such clients, who were identified by looking at the public profile of existing clients who serve on the board of the top 100 Stock Exchange of Thailand companies. 

  • Best Private Bank in Turkey
  • Winner: Garanti BBVA

Client service and communication are particularly important at Turkey’s Garanti BBVA Private Banking. 

“In a year that was challenging for both our country and the global markets, we focused on our customer-centric strategy that is the key to our sustainable success,” says Garanti BBVA private banking director Sinem Edige. “We interacted with clients more often than usual to understand correctly their constantly evolving needs and expectations, helping them make the right financial decisions and buy the most suitable investment products regarding their risk profiles.” 

Turkish clients have had to contend with economic volatility, a depreciation in the lira and the country facing several geopolitical challenges involving both regional and international powers.

In this environment, the bank hopes to provide clients with additional insights on the markets and the performance of its products. Relationship managers are given client visit targets, which are closely supervised at headquarter level. 

Garanti believes both digital and physical interaction are important, but Mr Edige reports that the demographic profile of Turkish private banking clients means they tend to prefer face-to-face meetings rather than an online approach. “But we believe digital interaction will gain acceleration in wealth management with the upcoming second generation,” he says.

Rather than new services, Mr Edige believes clients require different investment products. “With the low interest rate environment, they need more sophisticated vehicles to enhance their returns. We target those demands by designing products such as inflation-indexed bonds, structured bonds and deposits, and investment funds,” he says. 

  • Best Private Bank in the UAE
  • Best Private Bank for Islamic Services
  • Winner: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

The clients of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) are seeking an Islamic bank that can cater to their sharia-compliant needs, but which also provides the high-quality services expected from a dynamic, modern bank, says Mohammed Azab, head of private banking at the Abu Dhabi-based bank.

“This is our core proposition,” he says. “However, ADIB’s experience shows that Islamic private banking can gain wider appeal beyond a purely Muslim customer base and the fastest growing segment of our customers are now expatriates.” 

This has redefined the potential size of the market available to the bank. Such investors, Mr Azab says, “want to bank with an organisation that promotes ethical investment products and services, and which will become a long-term partner to support their wealth management objectives”.

ADIB describes the United Arab Emirates as “one large growth opportunity” and claims the bank’s products always have a “local flavour”. Trade and logistics, finance and tourism are the key pillars of the UAE economy, and the government has invested heavily in positioning itself as a world-class hub for these sectors.

Internationally, the bank is present in six countries, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia the most promising, says Mr Azab. ADIB is targeting the ‘Islamic trade corridor’, which connects the Islamic finance market of the UK and Europe, via the Middle East to the fast-growing Islamic-dominated economies of south-east Asia. 

It is also focused on developing digital services that are accessible and easy to use. “This transcends generations and is not just about our younger customers versus our more established clients,” says Mr Azab. “That is why we are working on redefining the private banking experience – bringing our clients a careful blend of digital services and wealth management advisory in a manner that suits their lifestyle.” 

  • Best Private Bank in the US
  • Best Private Bank for Succession Planning
  • Winner: Northern Trust

Technology remains core to Northern Trust’s growth strategy and its ability to advise clients. In 2018, the US bank, which enjoyed 9% revenue growth, made further enhancements to its goal-based wealth management framework by rolling out a new set of features to include estate and wealth transfer planning. 

“The framework enables us to visualise a consolidated balance sheet, dynamically align assets to goals in a purposeful way, and ensure clients have the right investment plan for all market environments, regardless of the level of their wealth,” says Steven L Fradkin, president at Northern Trust Wealth Management. Coupled with the expertise of the bank’s wealth and investment advisers, technology allows for any aspect of a client’s plan to be changed in real time to accommodate real life, he adds.  

The global family and private investment offices group is Northern Trust’s fastest growing segment within wealth management. “We keep clients at the centre of everything we do, act as a consultative partner, and tailor holistic, customised solutions,” says Mr Fradkin. 

The bank also regularly challenges conventional thinking regarding asset allocation and manager selection to provide investment solutions for clients that they would not typically receive at competitor firms, he adds. These innovative solutions have included real asset strategies, China-focused venture capital and private equity and fixed-income enhancement strategies.

To meet the more complex reporting needs of family offices, Northern Trust introduced an advanced business analytics solution, Anchor Analytics, which enables clients to visualise data, offering intuitive report authoring tools and, more recently, holistic data modelling, allowing clients to easily incorporate outside data sources. 

With more than 130 years of experience working with business owners, Northern Trust provides advice throughout the lifecycle of a family-owned business. Advanced succession planning is essential to assuring the greatest chance for success, even for established and profitable businesses, says Mr Fradkin. For entrepreneurial ventures, it often requires even greater advanced focus and attention to deliver successful results.

  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in Asia
  • Winner: Taishin Bank

In its aim to become a reliable and reputable private bank in Greater China and the Asia-Pacific region, Taishin Bank has a two-pronged strategy, based on understanding clients by their behaviour and using this information to customise products and services to suit individual clients.

To understand their behaviour, the bank collects information on clients including their age, transaction habits, channel preference and lifestyle. This strategy, claims Samuel Lin, deputy chief executive of the Taipei-based bank, has enabled it to increase client satisfaction. For example, the bank chooses the channel through which it communicates with clients based on their preferences. “This is the reason that our clients are so willing to keep in touch with us,” he says.

The bank combines digital services with traditional services; in-branch teller banking services are supplemented with video conference-based financial consulting services, for example. “The video conference service provides customers with access to the latest market trends and financial advice from our professional team,” says Mr Lin. “Outside business hours, our customers can use our video teller machine service to consult with tellers face to face.” 

The most important factors in ensuring client satisfaction in private banking include professional financial advice, a 24-hour service, a fast and convenient digital platform and multiple offers and exclusive experience activities, says Mr Lin. “Our configuration of services combines online and offline elements to provide full access and convenient, intelligent wealth management.”

This customer-centric strategy helped Taishin record an 8% growth in wealth management fee income during 2018 and a compound annual growth rate of 10% from 2011 to 2018, claims Mr Lin. 

  • Best Private Bank for Customer Service in the US
  • Winner: BNY Mellon Wealth Management

BNY Mellon Wealth Management strongly believes in a team-based customer approach, where each client is serviced by a wealth management team and has their wealth manager as their primary point of contact. When the need arises, wealth managers can tap into skilled specialists. These include wealth strategists, such as wealth planners and estate professionals, who also help clients define their philanthropic goals and inform them about critical matters, such as changing regulations and laws that could have an impact on their tax plans. Through appropriate planning, the typical wealthy family can boost its growth by 2% annually, according to the bank. 

Private bankers are integral members of each client’s wealth management team. They focus on both sides of a client’s balance sheet and develop tailored solutions that reflect each client’s unique tax, financial and personal circumstances. Family wealth investment advisers assist ultra-high-net-worth and family office clients in developing sophisticated and bespoke investment solutions to meet their more complex needs. Fiduciary specialists are focused on developing trusts for families across jurisdictions, understanding that familial wealth goes beyond traditional financial assets, and therefore assets such as real estate or an art collection need to be incorporated into estate plans.

A core tenet of BNY Mellon’s ‘Active Wealth’ approach is that a wealth plan must integrate goals-based investing, dynamic spending, opportunistic borrowing, tax management, and family governance and estate planning techniques to empower clients to make smart decisions and navigate the unpredictable and unexpected with confidence. Getting to know clients and understanding their goals, concerns and needs is key to being able to deliver results across market cycles and spanning multiple generations. The bank has a client-relationship tenure that averages 10 years. 

“Our long history as an institution, and the depth of our relationships with our clients, has given us a unique insight into what drives market cycles, what clients are most concerned about and what must be done to create lasting wealth,” says Ben McGloin, managing director and head of advice, planning and fiduciary services, at BNY Mellon Wealth Management.   

  • Best Private Bank for Brand Strategy
  • Winner: Lombard Odier

Lombard Odier’s brand values are rooted in its ‘Rethink Everything’ philosophy. 

“When we started to define and articulate our brand purpose and positioning, we reached deep into our history to understand the drivers of our differentiation and success,” says Fabio Mancone, chief branding officer at Lombard Odier. “We realised that for more than two centuries, our bank had thrived on innovation, adopting fresh perspectives and constantly rethinking the world around itself.” 

This underlying philosophy has helped the bank weather more than two centuries and 40 financial crises, and enables it to continue to pursue its core mission, which is preserving and growing the wealth of clients, he adds.

In 2018, the bank made a public commitment to the ‘sustainability revolution’ via a branding campaign. This year, it illustrated its approach by identifying far-sighted, decisive companies, called ‘the Eagles’, and those with “their heads in the sand, blind to the transformations taking place in every sector of the economy”, which it labels ‘the Ostriches’.

“Few banks have sustainability so close to their heart. We have long been both a responsible business and a sustainable investor,” says Mr Mancone, who adds that this strong commitment has also allowed greater engagement with clients, prospects and employees. 

In the 19th century, Alexandre Lombard, a second-generation partner, was a driving force in abolishing Sunday labour in Switzerland, and was among the first to actively support Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. In 1841, he advised clients against investing in US companies reliant on slave labour, whose business models he judged unsustainable. 

Today, Lombard Odier embeds proprietary sustainability analysis and environmental, social and governance metrics into all its investment processes and was the first global wealth and asset manager to achieve B Corp certification, the corporate sustainability rating, earlier in 2019. 

“This focus on sustainability is the direct result of our forward-looking vision, and our commitment to thinking and investing for the long term. We believe that sustainability will be the biggest investment opportunity in modern history,” says Mr Mancone.   

  • Best Private Banking Boutique
  • Winner: Banque SYZ

With more than $29bn in client assets at the end of 2018, privately-owned Banque SYZ claims to combine “the best” of Swiss private banking tradition, in terms of independence, quality of service and expertise in global investment management, with the “human dimension”.

Founded in 1996 in Geneva, the bank is free from shareholder pressure to deliver short-term results and is able to focus on its long-term aspirations. This allows prioritising quality of service and personal relationship with customers, says Nicolas Syz, head of private banking at Banque SYZ and son of Eric Syz, one of the founders. “Our focus as an independent and family-owned company is to provide tailor-made investment solutions to families, entrepreneurs and family offices at every stage of their wealth,” he adds.

Discretionary mandate strategies, managed through a “rigorous” risk-based investment process, use performance-linked remuneration fees, allowing the alignment of interests with clients’ investment objectives, he states.

In 2018, the Swiss Group, which also serves institutions and independent managers, launched SYZ Capital, to offer clients access to select niche opportunities across private markets and direct investments. Led by Marc Syz, the eldest son of Eric Syz, the business’s mission is to ‘democratise’ access to high-conviction alternative investments, by lowering minimum entry thresholds. It also provides qualified investors with a “flexible, diversified portfolio of niche and curated opportunities”, often overlooked by bigger players. 

Demand for alternatives is growing, as clients look to generate performance in a low-yield environment by diversifying exposure away from traditional asset classes, and are increasingly comfortable with including illiquid strategies in their portfolio. 

“Illiquidity can be a risk and an opportunity, as long as the illiquid nature of strategies fits into the investment mandate and risk profile, and is well understood by the client,” says Nicolas Syz. The risk lies where some illiquid strategies are packaged into supposedly more liquid structures or products, offering a false sense of liquidity to investors, he explains. This was the main issue faced by hedge funds during the financial crisis.

  • Best Private Bank for Alternatives
  • Winner: LGT

In the current market environment, characterised by low interest rates and continued high stock market valuations and volatility, investors are looking to alternatives to reduce the risks in their portfolios and tap new sources of revenue. “Both institutional clients and private clients are increasingly using alternative investments, and in particular private equity investments, which significantly improve the risk/return ratio of their portfolio, while at the same time providing diversification,” says Thomas Piske, CEO at LGT Private Banking. 

However, because of growing demand, more capital will flow into the private equity market, and private equity managers with little experience may proliferate. “Particularly for private equity investments, long-term experience and managers with a good network are key to success,” warns Mr Piske. This is the only way they can gain access to attractive transactions, be in a position to identify the best offerings and have the strategic and business know-how to take advantage of the potential of a company and increase its value, he says. Private equity is the asset class with the highest dispersion of returns between good and not so good asset managers, cautions Mr Piske.

LGT, which is fully owned and controlled by the Princely House of Liechtenstein, has invested in alternatives for more than 20 years, and can rely on a “global network of high-quality managers”, according to Mr Piske, with whom it has strong relationships.

For most investors, direct investments in single private equity deals are complicated or impractical, because of very difficult access, high transactional and legal costs, high illiquidity and high minimum sizes of investment, which make portfolio diversification hard to achieve. To manage concentration risk, investors should diversify within the asset class and select different investment styles, such as primary programmes or co-investments. They should work with different private equity managers, and invest across a number of sectors, regions and duration. 

Investors concerned about the increased risk of market turmoil are attracted to hedge funds as additional sources of diversification. “Low beta, discretionary strategies and innovative quantitative strategies all have a truly uncorrelated character and are thus well positioned to deliver tangible diversification benefits,” says Mr Piske.  

  • Best Private Bank for Diversity
  • Best  Private Bank for Philanthropy Services
  • Best Private Bank for Education and Training of Private Bankers
  • Winner: JPMorgan Private Bank

With more than 160 years of experience advising and managing investments for charitable institutions and philanthropists, philanthropy is part of JPMorgan’s DNA. A number of trends are shaping the way clients approach their giving, explains Diane Whitty, global head of the Philanthropy Centre at the bank. With the next generation expecting to inherit an estimated $59,000bn over the next 40 years, which represents the greatest wealth transfer in history, philanthropy has become a much larger discipline. Also, donors are choosing to give much earlier, as wealth is being made at a much younger age and on a much larger scale than ever before. Donors are also much more willing to take risks and increasingly drawn to support efforts to address the underlying systems that perpetuate and promote inequality. Accordingly, donors are seeking assistance in their philanthropy and often turn to trusted advisers, according to Ms Whitty.

“The sector is often intimidating for donors and their families to navigate. It is our mission to help our clients chart their philanthropic journey from beginning to end and feel confident that they have a trusted partner in the Philanthropy Centre at JPMorgan,” she says. 

The discussion with the client starts around motivations and values, as it is important for donors and their families to identify why they feel compelled to give and what they want to see as a result of their efforts. “Subsequently, we promote a robust learning experience for our clients on the issues or geographies they seek to support. We believe that if giving is rooted in learning it is far more likely to be sustainable over time,” says Ms Whitty. 

The bank partners with clients to help them identify, assess and partner with non-profit organisations. 

Philanthropy is a bond that can tie a family together. “Our clients often leverage giving as a way to commune the family, promote ongoing dialogue, and reflect on shared values,” says Ms Whitty. Although giving is often initiated by elder generations, philanthropy is important to members of the rising generation as well.  

  • Best Private Bank for Millennials
  • Winner: UOB Private Bank

With the largest wealth transfer in history looming, it is crucial for private banks to engage with younger generations. UOB Private Bank has launched several initiatives aimed at building long-term relationships and providing clients with advice “to safeguard and grow” their wealth across generations. 

“As most of our clients are business owners, we do focus on helping them to prepare their next generation for future responsibilities and leadership roles,” says Ong Yeng Fang, head of UOB Private Bank. “This involves regular engagement with the next generation to better understand their ambitions and to equip them with the right skills to succeed when they take over the reins of their family businesses.” 

The Singapore-based bank developed its Next Generation Programme to enable younger clients to exchange ideas with peers, professionals and entrepreneurs, while also allowing the bank to deepen its relationship with its client’s children. As part of the programme, the bank offers local and international internships with selected start-ups, tech companies and venture capital firms, partnering with global tech players such as Google and OurCrowd, a global equity crowdfunding platform. 

“Through such collaborations, we hope to inspire and to encourage our Next Generation Programme leaders to gain insights on emerging business and technology trends, in order to overcome their family business challenges from a fresh perspective,” says Ms Fang. 

The programme received “very positive” feedback from both participants and parents, which has translated into bigger share of wallet and new clients. Some 40% of parents invested more assets with the bank in the year after their children’s participation, while 60% of the Next Generation participants have become UOB clients. Looking forward to 2020, the institution plans to launch its Next Gen 2.0 and Alumni programme alongside more activities. “We are confident such initiatives will continue to attract more talented individuals to join our programme and to deepen their skill sets,” says Ms Fang.  

  • Best Private Bank for Growth Strategy
  • Winner: Union Bancaire Privée

The achievements of Union Bancaire Privée (UBP), one of Europe’s fastest growing private banks, are all the more remarkable when recalling how close the bank appeared to come to a near collapse.

This was after clients pulled their funds en masse following the twin effects of the global financial crisis of 2008 and exposure to fraudulent products associated with now-jailed fraudster Bernie Madoff.

Managed assets have since surged to SFr134bn ($135bn), overseen by 1700 staff, meaning the 50-year-old bank is now finally starting to nip at the heels of older, established Geneva rivals such as Lombard Odier.

Under the stewardship of CEO Guy de Picciotto, UBP has made a series of strategic acquisitions, is in the market for more buy-ups, and is refocusing its efforts on both traditional portfolio management and private equity investments, rather than the hedge funds of old.

“Acquisitions are not something you plan ahead for, but yes, in spite of a slowdown in market consolidation, we remain open to acquisitions in our priority markets,” says Mr de Picciotto.

The integration of ACPI in London has given the bank private debt expertise for the critical UK market, while buying Carnegie in Luxembourg has allowed UBP to concentrate on turning the Grand Duchy into its new European hub, offering access to all EU markets, now that Brexit threatens London and negotiations with Switzerland have stalled.

The bank says acquisitions have not only added critical mass in Europe, but also enabled a fast-growing footprint in Asia, which UBP has identified as a priority market for bulk recruitment of relationship managers. Working with external asset managers is seen as an ‘integral part’ of the private bank’s strategy for business growth.

UBP has developed an e-platform designed specifically for external asset managers, as well as dedicated investment products and support teams. Asia is seen as the key hunting ground for further expansion in this sector, where it is considered to be “a relatively new but already well-structured segment”, according to Mr de Picciotto.

  • Best Performing Private Bank
  • Winner: Industrial Bank

Industrial Bank Private Bank emerged as the winner of the Best Performing Private Bank category, based on our inaugural quantitative analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs), which were gathered from all private banking groups that have entered this year’s awards. 

The Chinese private bank, established in 2011, experienced strong growth rates across several critical KPIs, including assets under management and number of clients per relationship manager, while keeping a low cost-to-income ratio. In 2018, its assets under management grew by more than 30% to Rmb426bn ($60bn), achieving similar growth rates in the private banking client numbers. 

“With the rapid growth of the wealth scale of China’s high-net-worth people, the private banking business is expected to become the strategic ‘blue sea’ of retail business,” says Xuxian Dai, general manager, private banking department, at Industrial Bank. As they become richer, clients bank with a higher number of institutions, and this has offered new business opportunities to private banks, he adds. Also, thanks to regulation, clients prefer banks as their professional wealth managers.

In recent years, Industrial Bank has improved its customer service, investing in personnel training, IT systems and digitalisation, while enhancing its product capabilities, leveraging the group’s investment and asset management expertise. Products are customised to a client’s individual investment objectives, while their complex needs are met through integrated solutions. These include both financial and non-financial solutions, with a focus on health management and children’s education. “High-quality medical, beauty, education and study advice and other resources provide high-quality services for clients,” says Mr Dai. “This has become an important way to obtain and keep clients.” 

A ‘client-centric’ brand, high-quality products, value-added services and a service experience, together with enhanced targeted marketing, have contributed to attract new private banking clients, largely sourced from the upper segment of retail clients. 

But the Chinese private banking industry is still nascent and faces key challenges. The development of qualified personnel needs to be strengthened, says Mr Dai, as most Chinese private banks are still based around their traditional retail wealth management business.  

  • Best Leader in Private Banking
  • Winner: Peter Charrington, Global Head, Citi Private Bank

The first thing that becomes obvious when meeting Peter Charrington in his New York headquarters is the extraordinary energy of the CEO of Citi’s global private banking operation.

Even early in the morning, he spins effortlessly from reception staff to private bankers to clients, remembering everyone’s names and with a friendly and meaningful word to all.

He replicates this performance in London, Hong Kong and other Citi hubs. But Mr Charrington lives this role and enjoys it. Staff say he replies to e-mails at all hours, whichever time zone he is in. And if there are complaints about the service at Citi, he wants to know the bad news in person, as quickly as possible.

Staff are united in seeing Mr Charrington as a leader, someone they would follow into the trenches. This may not have always been the case. Yes, he was regarded as a rising star in the firm for the past decade, long identified as a potential boss. But colleagues, clients and rivals agree he has grown into the top job and recently acquired more of the gravitas and humility associated with a true leader.

Mr Charrington has successfully negotiated many challenges. These have included significantly improving the bank’s investment proposition, developing a high-quality digital offering through key staff appointments and his own personal vision in this area, and putting an end to the product-pushing culture that pervaded many US investment banking-led firms.

But there are two key challenges he still faces, warn consultants. The first, he acknowledges, is the transition between the old guard of 40-year-old and 50-year-old relationship managers who still hold significant sway in terms of client loyalty, to a younger, more innovative and digitally savvy workforce. This includes an overhaul of recruitment and continued improvement of in-house training.

The second is maintaining and improving profitability in a world where highly skilled investment and digital staff are at a premium, maintenance of physical city centre locations can bite into the balance sheet and outsourcing to eastern European processing centres is no longer as cost efficient as it once was. 


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