With clients demanding expertise in areas such as ESG, alternatives and technology, PWM’s awards celebrate success for those banks which stay one step ahead 

It quickly became clear while judging the Global Private Banking Awards for 2021 that the Covid-19 pandemic was accelerating key trends, including digitalisation, communication, and investment in environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies.

However, during a summer spent scrutinising submissions from more than 120 private banks around the world, our panel of 16 judges from four continents also noticed the uncertainty emerging in some players, no longer unequivocal about the purpose of their institution.

Times have changed

These challenges were highlighted in a recent panel discussion, involving three of our judges, respectively based in London, New York and Hong Kong. “It’s quite debatable, whether or not managing portfolios is a core competency for private banks,” said Cara Williams, global wealth leader at consulting firm Mercer in London, arguing that where these players have raised their game and become specialists is in the previously nebulous sphere of client servicing. “These banks are really working with clients, so they understand the risks that they’re put under right now,” she said.

This trend of hand-holding, empathy and guidance in steering a clear course through dual public health and economic crises is a world away from the pre-pandemic era, when banks were constantly panned for not connecting with their clientele.

“The best banks,” she said, “are the ones recognising that you can’t do it all and certainly not do it to the best of their expertise. So, leading with expertise where they can, outsourcing where necessary and focusing, again, just on their strengths, I think, is the best way forward for them.”

This analysis points to clients using a portfolio of private banking providers, with clear division on who provides key services. The client may typically use one specialist private bank for ESG investing, one for alternative investments and a third for succession planning, rather than hiring several very similar global institutions to manage portfolios.

Embracing the future

The increasingly important role of alternative investments in portfolio-led solutions was highlighted by Malik Sarwar, head of wealth management at the Global Leader Group in New York, and former senior banker at HSBC, Citi and Merrill Lynch. Mr Sarwar also drew attention to a parallel trend of these key players hiring younger relationship managers and investment staff, in order to understand better the ambitions of the millennial generation, heirs to the ongoing $70tn wealth transfer of assets.

“This latest generation tends to want bankers who they can relate to in terms of values,” said Mr Sarwar. “I think the banks have been quick to hire millennials as part of global teams, so they can offer [these clients] services fit for their needs.”

Many banks, as became obvious in our forensic study of the submissions, had begun to re-orientate themselves as experts, managers or advisors on private equity in particular, kicking off a war to hire expertise in this private capital arena. 

The rivalry to secure talent was not just among bank-led wealth managers, but had spread to the family office world. Specialists often headed here to enjoy a more independent and boutique experience, clear of pressures to sell tranches of structured products and other internally sourced strategies.

“The talent that the banks want is in very sparse supply,” agreed Simeon Fowler, a leading headhunter in the Asia-Pacific region, where he founded Fowler Fox and Co. Rather than seeing private banks fighting for specialists in alternative investments, however, he sees a more pragmatic approach. “Banks are now actually upskilling their investment advisory teams,” he pointed out.

There was even a suggestion from Mr Fowler that the surge of specialists heading to the boutique firms in Asia may actually be reversed as the global and regional private banks upgrade their offers. “The interesting thing about so many people leaving banks and setting up family offices, and certainly boutique operations, is that we’re seeing the lifespan of these firms is extremely short,” said Mr Fowler. “Many of them are lasting two or three years and they’re finding that they can’t grow. So, the next three or four years, certainly in Asia, is going to be interesting.”

Staying afloat

Those banks that fail to upgrade staff and practices in these portfolio management and advisory areas will suffer dearly, believes Mr Sarwar, who highlighted the $330bn in fines been levied globally against banks that have mis-sold or mismanaged products, created toxic securities and neglected to adequately protect their clients.

He emphasised that leaders of successful banks must exercise the qualities of integrity, competence and compassion to succeed in wealth management over the longer term. However, there is still much work to be done in terms of altering key performance indicators to help improve the emphasis on compassion and client-centricity, he said. “The industry is still rather revenue and asset-based, as opposed to being assessed on client outcomes, caring and net promoter scores,” said Mr Sarwar.

The pandemic has highlighted some key leadership talent, which has evolved quickly and risen to the top of the tree, says Mr Fowler, who specialises in identifying recruitment trends. “These leaders that certainly stepped up to the plate in this incredible pandemic that we’ve all had to deal with, have shown huge resourcefulness in their ability to think of more consultative ways to approach their staff,” said Mr Fowler. “It’s at times like these that you can see the real shining stars in terms of how they’ve been able to navigate their businesses through choppy waters.”

Bank tokenism

The lack of authenticity among some organisational leaders was, however, tackled by Ms Williams. “The vast majority of firms that have tried to pivot towards certain client segments — that of women in particular because obviously the transfer of wealth is so abundantly clear there — appear quite superficial,” said Ms Williams. “They often see this just as a means to get more assets, as opposed to a genuine desire to improve relationships with female clients and then, most importantly, to improve the outcomes for them and their families.”

She also questioned banks’ application of their much-publicised policies relating to diversity and equality of opportunity. “I think there’s a clear desire to improve diversity numbers within firms and banks in particular, and certainly in financial services more broadly,” said Ms Williams. “The question is whether or not that is a consistent effort and whether it’s being measured, and whether or not we are seeing the changes that we need to see and, frankly, I think we’re absolutely not.”

The high-profile recruitment and investment area in which banks have made much more progress is that of ESG and impact investing, which has been very clear in the quality of our award submissions. “The more senior the banker, the more interest and experience they have in this space,” said Mr Fowler. 

The focus of talented, younger entrants to the job market has certainly switched over the years from unbridled financial returns to technology-led trends, with responsible investing just beginning to make its mark, according to Mr Sarwar. He sees banks with competing claims around “saving the world” striving to attract successful young people. “The industry has made a lot of effort to get them in and make amends for its excesses,” he said. “The youngsters may be a little sceptical, but they remain open-minded.”

The realisation that ESG investing will be good for clients is, however, coming only slowly. “While ‘greed is good’ is absolutely still the mantra, what’s happening is people are recognising that ESG is actually improving those outcomes,” said Ms Williams. “So, you can be greedy and do good. People have recognised the two are integrally linked and you have to take that into consideration if you want to outperform.”

Best global private bank

Best private bank in Asia

Best private bank for chief investment office

Winner: UBS

UBS boasts one of the best-staffed chief investment offices (CIOs) in global private banking, but the bank is adamant there is much more to success in this highly competitive sphere than high-quality research.

Translating investment insights into actionable investments in client portfolios, and matching them with products which appeal to clients, is just as important. “We’re increasingly using our digital capabilities to bring those CIO insights to clients in ways that are more personalised and relevant to them,” according to UBS. “In short, the CIO provides the fuel for our UBS ecosystem.”

This global wealth management powerhouse, now under the joint leadership of Tom Naratil and Iqbal Khan, has never looked back since the financial crisis, after which its then CEO Jürg Zeltner decided to ditch secrecy, tax-led services and all the other private banking fripperies, while concentrating instead on high quality portfolio management.

“The core of private banking is — and will remain — addressing client needs. Especially during volatile times, clients look to us to not only safeguard their wealth but also take advantage of dislocations,” says UBS, adding that 75% of its CIO calls outperformed during the Covid-19 dark days of 2020.

There has also been a growing realisation at the bank for several years that it must not become over-reliant on its vibrant Asia-Pacific business, which recorded its best-ever second quarter in 2021. There are recent signs that its US and Europe, the Middle East and Africa businesses are gaining momentum.

The type of service offered to clients is, however, expected to keep evolving, with clients now encouraged to join an internal network which connects them to one another. “These connections can amplify results for all concerned,” says the bank. “While we can see the competition in the rear-view mirror, we are confident that by becoming not only the best wealth manager, but also the most convenient to work with, we will continue to lead the pack.”

Best private bank in Europe

Best global brand in private banking

Winner: Pictet

Pictet, the quintessential Geneva institution, is going from strength to strength in the heartland of private banking. The bank’s key advantage, compared to its peer group, is its investment expertise, according to our judges. With uncertainty highlighted by the pandemic, its investment brains have been redrawing their strategies to add further emphasis to alternative assets.

“Unlike at any other time over the past century, we believe that now, more than ever, is the time to consider investing in private assets,” says Sven Holstenson, head of Europe for Pictet Wealth Management. “For investors who can tolerate a large degree of illiquidity, we predict that private equity should continue to deliver highly attractive returns over the next 10 years.”

There are three reasons for this shift. First, over the next decade, the bank expects developed market equities to deliver returns one third lower than their average for the past 40 years. Including private assets could help offset listed equities’ declining return potential.

Second, governments around the world have committed to big spending tickets to revitalise fragile economies undermined by the pandemic. This opens up new opportunities for private investors to allocate assets alongside public flows, much of which will go towards upgrading infrastructure.

Thirdly, traditional sectors are being disrupted by technology and innovation. These disruptors often begin as innovative start-ups that can only be accessed by investors through private equity and venture capital.

Pictet has also successfully negotiated several operational challenges, including three smooth CEO successions in Italy, France and the UK. The departure of tough-talking former Julius Baer boss Boris Collardi, following “careful consideration”, is also seen as positive for the brand, despite his brief tenure as a partner.

Members of the Swiss financial community say the move is a sign of the bank’s strength. “Pictet quickly identified that Mr Collardi did not share the bank’s culture and persuaded him to move on,” says one senior consultant.

Best private bank in central and eastern Europe

Best private bank in Austria

Best private bank in Croatia

Winner: Erste Private Banking

Erste Private Banking, part of Austrian banking giant Erste Group, lends, invests and protects money on behalf of 20,000 clients in central and eastern Europe.

The direction in which the bank was heading with its product mix before the Covid-19 crisis has been vindicated since the impact of the pandemic, says Maximilian Clary und Aldringen, head of private banking and wealth management at Erste Group.

“Our modular discretionary portfolio management solutions, which can be highly individualised and can be focused on sector themes like new ideas and megatrends and quality stocks, have been exactly the right product at the right time,” he explains.

“Investment solutions on the private equity and venture capital side have also become more and more important for our customers,” says Mr Clary und Aldringen.

Following intensive dialogues with advisors, many clients “did the right thing” and took advantage of a correction in prices to add to their investments, he adds.

“After strong government intervention we are well back on track in the region. In some areas even above pre-crisis levels,” says Mr Clary und Aldringen. “The European Green Deal offers huge potential to boost the macroeconomic performance in the upcoming years in the region.”

As well as innovating in sustainable and impact investing, such as launching the first sustainable fund on the Austrian market in 2001, the bank has sought to improve its approach to service during the pandemic.

“From the beginning of the first lockdown in Austria in March 2020 we offered a seamless way of allowing our advisors to work from home and partially in the office, while being available for our customers and providing remote advisory services. Clients could choose between personal meetings (if Covid-19 circumstances permitted), phone calls and video calls, according to their preference,” he explains.

“Retail branches were open throughout the crisis, and we were able to offer all private banking and wealth management services, including account opening, securities trading as well as discretionary portfolio management services in a digital, paperless way,” adds Mr Clary und Aldringen.

Best private bank in the Middle East

Best leader in private banking (Philipp Rickenbacher, CEO)

Winner: Julius Baer

Senior managers at Julius Baer, one of the private banking stalwarts of the Bahnhofstrasse pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Zurich, refer to 2020 as a “truly extraordinary year”, with smiles of relief.

Not only are they pleased at still being here to tell the tale, but they are expressing genuine delight that their bank has survived the crisis in such good shape. Despite its traditional image, the bank, under the leadership of CEO Philipp Rickenbacher, has embraced the challenges more swiftly and successfully than some competitors.

Indeed, during 2020, Julius Baer freed up budgets to accelerate investment in its ongoing digital transformation, pumping SFr90m ($97m) into improving its digital channels and becoming one of the first Swiss firms to offer digital client onboarding.

The strategy cooked up in its low-rise headquarters was a simple but effective one: to connect with clients and employees safely, and with a heightened contact frequency and relevance in communications between clients and the global force of 1400 relationship managers.

The bank’s recommendation at the outset of the pandemic was to stick to established investment strategies, while taking advantage of the many opportunities its investment experts continued to identify in volatile markets. Investment staff at Julius Baer believe this advice proved helpful for its clients and their portfolios.

This confidence translated into gratifying inflows of fresh assets from existing and new clients to the tune of $16bn in 2020, driving managed assets up to $470bn.

For Julius Baer, the Middle East remains a strategically important growth market, with the group’s move to make Dubai the hub for its regional activity showing faith in the Emirate’s leadership and growth opportunities. The activities of this central fulcrum are complemented by local offices in Beirut, Manama and Abu Dhabi, as well as from a growing number of group locations in Europe and Asia.

Best private bank in Latin America

Best private bank in Latin America for customer service

Winner: Itaú Private Bank

Last year was uniquely challenging and one which reinforced Itaú’s commitment to serving clients and looking after employees, as well as the bank’s impact on wider society.

“The pandemic affected everyone, and we at Itaú understood that our role went beyond clients and teams. We have a responsibility to society,” says Felipe Sampaio Nabuco, head of Itaú Private Bank in Brazil. “We reaffirmed our commitment to Brazil by creating ‘Todos pela Saúde’ (All for Health), an alliance of professionals working to fight the coronavirus in our country and endowing it with a historic donation of more than 1.2bn reais ($217m).”

Thanks to its strong technology platform, service to clients was not severely affected during the pandemic, with the bank being able to reorganise teams and reprioritise projects. “But after a few weeks, we came to understand that what mattered the most to clients at that moment was attention, proximity and being taken care of — even if it was done in a remote way,” he explains. “So, we redirected our technological efforts to making our teams’ day-to-day work easier, which freed up more of their time for engaging with clients. We have also significantly expanded our frontline team in recent months, which has enabled us to give even more time to our clients.”

A major milestone for Itaú in 2020 was the launch of the Amazon Plan, developed in partnership with Bradesco and Santander, which has the objective of promoting the sustainable development of the Amazon region, a move that further cements the bank’s commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

“We have developed an ESG product platform based on careful curation and the policies that have always guided our efforts to offer the best investment options to our clients. We now have more than 70 ESG products available across the Brazilian and global markets, and across multiple asset classes ranging from corporate bonds to sustainable bonds,” Mr Nabuco adds.

Best private bank in Andorra 

Winner: Crèdit Andorrà

Crèdit Andorrà has more than 70 years of experience in private banking, during which time the bank has based its business model on service capacity, personalisation, specialisation, rigour and professionalism.

In line with the strategic plan of the whole group, Crèdit Andorrà’s private bank has focused on developing corporate operations and strategic alliances to create and expand its value offer to the customer, says Xavier Cornella, CEO of Crèdit Andorrà Financial Group.

“In the last year, we have started the process of unifying our brand worldwide, under the name Creand. This will enable us to reinforce our leadership in Andorra, increase synergies, strengthen our international presence and boost the sense of belonging of the team,” he says.

“We have carried out in-depth work to implement new digital services to respond to new customer needs, improve the multi-channel offer and facilitate remote contracting. This has allowed us to increase the use of online banking.”

Crèdit Andorrà is committed to sustainability, with a track record dating back to 1998, when the bank joined the United Nations Environment Programme. “This was consolidated in 2016 when we became the first bank in the country to sign up to the UN Global Compact and align ourselves with the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Mr Cornella.

“As a bank committed to the development of society, we are also committed to supporting and promoting entrepreneurship. We have built a network of beneficial relationships for all stakeholders, revolving around the creation of an innovation hub,” he adds.

Best private bank in Australia

Winner: Private Wealth — Westpac

When the Covid-19 pandemic reached its shores in March 2020, Australia entered a strict nationwide lockdown for 50 days, with rolling state-based lockdowns occurring thereafter. Westpac Group’s business in the state of Victoria underwent a second lockdown lasting almost four months.

Despite the restrictions, remote working and a volatile economy, the private banking arm of the group was able to grow its business and support clients, many of whom saw opportunities to increase their wealth, buying property, equities and assets.

“We had clear plans in place to help our clients bank and deal with us as efficiently and securely as possible, but the pandemic accelerated this journey and forced us to rapidly adapt how we engage with our clients,” says Ashley Stewart, managing director, private wealth, Westpac Group.

To meet clients’ needs during the pandemic, the bank enhanced its Private Wealth Management Tool, allowing for the digital storage of all client interactions, preferences, account applications and their wholesale status.

“We continue to invest in our clients’ digital experience, with enhancements this year such as ‘digital investment orders’, which remove the need for signing, scanning and emailing paper-based investment documents,” he says. “This is absolutely improving digital engagement with our clients and there is more to come.”

The initial priority was to ensure clients had the “confidence and capability” to operate effectively within a lockdown environment, Mr Stewart adds. The bank set up one-on-one digital sessions to ensure its private bankers could clearly understand clients’ needs. Going forward, the investment made in improving the digital experience of clients, combined with personalised and face-to-face relationship services, will combine “the best of both worlds”, he says.

Best private bank in Bahrain

Best private bank in Kuwait

Winner: Ahli United Bank

Ahli United Bank (AUB) has developed a strong presence in the Middle East since it was formed in 2000 from the merger of the United Bank of Kuwait and Al-Ahli Commercial Bank.

Since then, AUB has sought to expand its wealth management product offering, to provide solutions across a range of asset classes and investment instruments.

Focus is now on strengthening the product platform, while accessing an extensive geographical footprint to source cross-border business, commercial opportunities and investment flows within the Middle East and north Africa.

The ability to finesse this approach has been enabled by the development of delivery mechanisms to empower clients via digital products and services, “especially as the pandemic highlighted the criticality of investment in digital technologies,” says Mark Hirst, deputy group CEO, private banking and wealth management at AUB.

“AUB recently launched several online banking services, including mobile banking, video banking, visual interactive voice response and contactless payments, which reinforced demands to meet client needs and enabled employees to deliver outstanding value,” he adds.

Of these, Mr Hirst says a key initiative was a complete revamp of the group’s business-to-business system, a customisable application to meet the diverse banking business requirements of corporate clients. “This platform combines all key payment, collection and statement processing on a single web-based unified, automated and secured platform that provides real-time cash flow visibility to the client, thereby improving efficiency and reducing costs,” he says.

AUB has also launched several banking services to deliver “anywhere, anytime” to its clients via digital channels, one of them being WhatsApp banking. “This service has been received successfully and appreciatively by clients and provides a wide range of benefits, such as requests for bank balance, your last five transactions, the ability to update IDs, transfers within AUB accounts and much more,” says Mr Hirst.

Best private bank in Belgium

Winner: KBC Private Banking

KBC Private Banking’s strategy is built on three main pillars: a solution-based holistic approach to relationship management; a combination of digital interaction and human contact; and a focus on sustainable and profitable growth.

In 2020, KBC launched ‘Iris’, a new smart advisory engine which screens portfolios held by KBC’s private and wealth clients on a daily basis. “The engine performs a fine-grained scrutiny of each portfolio based on more than a hundred underlying risk and return factors, and formulates personal proactive advice that is Markets in Financial Instruments Directive-compliant. This helped us to grow in terms of additional business,” explains Achille Boeyé, marketing manager at KBC Private Banking. “Our tradition of building long-standing relationships with our customers helped us to maintain customer confidence in a turbulent investor market.”

KBC Mobile, the bank’s all-in-one digital platform, has remained at the cutting edge of digital innovation. During 2020, the platform was strengthened with the introduction of new data-driven solutions, ranging from health-related tools to the ‘My Real Estate’ dashboard, which can instantly value any property in Belgium.

But perhaps the most talked about digital innovation was the introduction of ‘Kate’, a personal digital assistant, similar to the likes of Siri or Google Assistant, which uses artificial intelligence and data to provide clients with the information and solutions they need, in both a reactive and proactive manner.

Another development was the launch of the ‘Matti’ exchange-traded fund (ETF) platform, where clients receive ‘robo assistance’ to build a portfolio of selected ETFs based on their individual preferences. 

In order to cater for the younger generations, KBC has also introduced its Next Gen service, which allows clients’ children to access a number of benefits including preferential rates on home loans and a free KBC Silver credit card, among others.

Best private bank in Brazil

Best private bank in Colombia

Winner: BTG Pactual

BTG Pactual Wealth Management’s consistent growth in recent years has accelerated with the acquisition of significant stakes in several financial companies, such as EQI, Ourinvest DTVM, Lifetime, Necton, Fator and Empiricus/Vitreo, which have business models complementary to its wealth management offering.

The Brazilian bank, which boasts a footprint across the region, with a presence in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, also consolidated its operations by attracting 113 new autonomous investment agent offices over the past three years.

It also significantly expanded its team of professionals to serve wealthy clients, both in Brazil and abroad, notably in the US and Portugal. Growth was driven by the strong cross-selling culture with its investment banking division and continuous investment to expand its local and international presence.

A new office in Campo Grande, in Brazil’s Midwest, was opened to be closer to the major agribusiness players.

As a result of these initiatives, wealth management client assets have grown by 43% to 380bn reais ($69bn) since the beginning of 2020.

The historically low real interest rate cycle in Brazil has fuelled client interest in alternatives. In this space the bank offers several innovative investment solutions, such as Economia Real, a fund that generated more than 1.3bn reais in to be allocated in opportunities in Brazil.

BTG Pactual was also the first local investment bank to create a sustainable and impact investing division. Its private equity fund, launched this year, has raised more than 540m reais. A growing offshore products platform complements local investment offerings. The bank expects to double, or even triple, the $10bn of offshore client assets in two years.

“We built a hub, an investment solution ecosystem that enables us to meet a wide variety of investor needs, in an integrated and holistic-based approach,” says Rogério Pessoa, partner, head of wealth management at BTG Pactual. By the end of 2022, the bank expects to surpass 600bn reais in assets under management.

Best private bank in Bulgaria 

Winner: UniCredit Bulbank

UniCredit Bulbank, a member of the pan-central and eastern Europe UniCredit Group, is the largest bank in Bulgaria. UniCredit Group’s investment strategy represents a key pillar of its philosophy and service offering, with local customers benefiting from the group’s strong partnership with global asset managers.

The ability of the Bulgarian bank to ensure business continuity during the pandemic is reflected in the growth of its client assets, up by more than 2%, and unit-linked insurance products, up by around 16%.

“We are witnessing a trend that will continue in the near future; clients will try to overcome the negative interest rates in the eurozone and will be looking for new investment opportunities worldwide,” predicts Borislav Genov, head of retail banking at UniCredit Bulbank.

The bank is looking to expand its investment offering through new insurance products, mutual funds, structured products and also wants to broaden its lending activities.

Last year, the institution launched digital payment channels, online chat and video platforms, as well as a digital tool to allow clients to place investment orders through their online banking accounts. “By giving customers more freedom to manage their finances, we have further improved our customer experience and proved once again our dedication during the Covid-19 crisis,” boasts Mr Genov.

The bank’s ultimate goal is to build sustainable, long-term relationships with clients by protecting and growing their assets. UniCredit Bulbank is already working with the third generation of its customers and is particularly focused on meeting the sustainable investing needs of the next generation.

Best private bank in Canada   Best private bank for growth strategy

Winner: RBC Wealth Management

RBC Wealth Management (RBC WM) serves affluent, high-net-worth (HNW) and ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients from operational hubs in Canada, the US, the UK and Asia.

The business provides a full suite of banking, investment, trust and other wealth management solutions, as well as asset management products and services.

When the Covid-19 pandemic triggered a global lockdown, RBC WM teams mobilised quickly to ensure a seamless experience for colleagues and clients to continue delivering a global growth strategy, both in North America and Asia.

“Coupled with increasing links to North America [more than half of Canada’s immigrant population comes from the Asia-Pacific region], we have refocused our strategy in Asia to target Asia’s global families,” says Jennifer Publicover, senior vice-president, wealth management products and strategy, at RBC WM.

These are global UHNW families in Asia who are connected to RBC’s home markets of Canada, the US and the UK through family links or migration, business and investments, she explains.

“They have complex wealth and estate planning needs spanning multiple jurisdictions, intergenerational wealth transfer considerations, need for cross-border solutions, and management of global assets across currencies and international asset classes,” adds Ms Publicover.

“With a comprehensive Asian wealth management platform in Singapore and Hong Kong supplemented by market-leading capabilities in North America and a growing presence in the UK, RBC WM is uniquely positioned to meet the complex needs of these families,” she claims.

In addition, RBC WM has sought to offer reputable, well-constructed environmental, social and governance (ESG) offerings across all asset classes by integrating ESG analysis into its two main investment teams, global manager research and the portfolio advisory Group.

Best private bank in Chile      

Winner: LarrainVial

LarrainVial is one of the largest banks in Chile and its presence extends across Peru, Colombia and the US. 

Business growth during 2020 was driven by a number of factors, as Gonzalo Córdova, LarrainVial’s head of wealth management, explains. “First is our reach, being able to include more clients, existing and potential clients in the flow of information. We could accompany our clients with specialised updates with regards to the risks and the opportunities throughout the challenges of the year — and this was fundamental for our growth.”

The benefits of using open architecture and the depth of its product offerings, he adds, were also key to the bank being able to respond quickly to modifications in portfolios. “And finally, our ability to simplify and digitalise the onboarding process has also impacted our growth positively.”

One of the bank’s main focuses during 2020 was to remain close to its clients, facilitated by the use of technology. Clients were able to take part in online meetings and calls with regards to funds, markets or investment themes, and also follow morning briefings via WhatsApp, market comments on YouTube, and interviews on Instagram.

Another important development was the growth of Alcalá Inversiones, the bank’s family office business, which more than doubled its assets under management and income during 2020.

Last year also presented challenges for LarrainVial, including the recruitment and training of recent graduates to become financial advisors. “We received triple the [number of] CVs that we normally receive — 50 for 12 hires — due to the fact that many companies stopped their hiring processes,” Mr Córdova explains. “The same happened with student internships — we were one of the few companies that managed to carry out the internship programmes, for which we received many requests.” 

Best private bank in China     

Winner: China Merchants Bank

China Merchants Bank (CMB), the seventh largest lender in the country (and the biggest joint-stock commercial bank after the six state-owned entities), claims the largest private banking business among all Chinese banks. By the second quarter of 2021, its private bank had assets under management of RMB3.13tn ($489.2bn).

At the core of CMB’s private banking proposition is a focus on developing what it describes as the “value circulation chain of big wealth management”, as China’s high-net-worth individual market grows.

This market expansion reflects a rise in financing in the domestic A-share market and initial public offerings by Chinese companies in foreign markets, says Wang Yanrong, general manager of private banking at CMB.

“The listing of those companies is turning a whole group of entrepreneurs into potential private banking clients,” she adds.

To address the continued challenge of Covid-19, more online communication and integration through the CMB app and other online service tools have been developed, instead of face-to-face interactions. “Clients can continue to feel the [love] from CMB and get the financial services that we provide, which also helped to improve client experience and acquisition efficiency,” says Ms Wang.

The bank has implemented a multi-party mutual trust signature scheme based on a combination of electronic signature and blockchain technology, which has been applied to its family fiduciary business. “The scheme is designed so that each business participant uses electronic signature technology,” she adds.

Best private bank in Czech Republic  

Winner: ČSOB Private Banking

At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, ČSOB Private Banking was quick to revisit client investment profiles to meet their expectations as much as possible, says Pavel Tich         , director of wealth office at the Czech bank.

Following central bank’s rate cuts during the pandemic, ČSOB significantly reduced fixed income and deposit-like positions in client portfolios, in large part replacing them with equity and alternative asset classes.

Private bankers were able to support clients’ confidence in equity-like products. Regular investments into riskier equity funds have paid off, with clients currently having “beautiful returns”, adds Mr Tich    .

Going forward against a backdrop of rising global inflation, he expects growth opportunities in investment banking products and services, which remain the bank’s main source of income.

Clients, though, also show interest for real estate funds, private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC), in addition to traditional investment products. PE and VC are areas the private bank wants to develop further. Last year, čSOB launched environmental, social and governance investment certificates, and has recently started educating clients around sustainable investing, believing it is a strategy for the long term. 

Clients today are concerned about high inflation and very expensive asset classes, while uncertainty around the pandemic continues to weigh on their business, explains Mr Tich         . The bank’s key advice to clients is to continue to make regular investments into the stock market.

Clients got used to digital tools during lockdown and the bank expects customers will continue to use them for their daily banking activities, while a hybrid service will be favoured in other areas. ČSOB also aims to improve its after-sales service, to offer clients more personalised information about the status of their investments.

Best private bank in Denmark

Winner: Nykredit Private Banking

Despite social restrictions, in 2020 Nykredit Private Banking experienced a significant growth in the number of new clients, by more than 10%. “During lockdown, we have moved even closer to our existing clients and checked in on both a professional and personal level. This has led to a strengthening of our relationship and more clients have been willing to recommend us as a private banking partner,” explains Lotte Månsson, director of Nykredit Private Banking Elite.

Moreover, client-facing teams have met more frequently to share ideas on how to work from home efficiently, how to make personal connections online, and also how to stay mentally healthy when isolated at home. Sharing struggles has helped bankers to deliver as a team, she says.

Digital solutions and initiatives help to streamline and improve processes, but “one key lesson from the pandemic and lockdown is that human contact is still the most important aspect of our business,” she adds.

Product innovation, especially in sustainable solutions and alternatives, combined with a healthy flow of net new money, helped client assets rise 17%, to DK77bn ($12bn), during 2020.

The Danish bank launched a green bond loan, linked to house renovation projects, a green car loan and several new investment funds, which have been Nordic Swan Ecolabel approved. Moreover, it has introduced an environmental, social and governance-focused private equity fund and a discretionary mandate for ultra-high-net-worth clients, allowing them to structure the portfolio according to their needs.

The bank has recently lowered the minimum investment threshold for illiquid funds, and the most recent private equity fund closed several months before schedule, as client interest exceeded expectations. “At Nykredit, we believe that infrastructure and private equity should be available to all investors,” says Ms Månsson. 

Best private bank in France

Best private bank for entrepreneurs

Winner: BNP Paribas Banque Privée France/wealth management

As BNP Paribas reshapes its private banking offering, the talk from the top and right through the ranks to the relationship managers is about “building a sustainable future with clients”. In recent years, this underlying philosophy is becoming almost as important as boosting profits.

The two goals should no longer be regarded as contradictory, believes Vincent Lecomte, CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management, responsible for client assets of $462bn. “Combining sustainable finance and performance is perfectly possible,” he says, waxing lyrical about how his bank can contribute towards a more sustainable economy “by financing and advising clients in an ethical and responsible manner”.

Although the wealth management arm appears to have finally moved away from acting as a distribution channel for investment banking and asset management products, there remains a pan-group strategy to leverage resources and expertise, providing clients — be they individuals, businesses or institutions — with high performance and innovative financial products.

This notion of accompanying entrepreneurs on their long-term journey is a vital focus for the bank, as it sees them as the main drivers of economic recovery in its core geographies of Europe (France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), Asia, the Middle East and the US. BNP Paribas has assigned 170 relationship managers for its “systematic and industrialised ‘one bank’ approach” to this segment.

The advisors are expected to bring corporate and investment banking, real estate and asset management services to entrepreneurs. “This approach allows us to serve these clients globally, over the long term at every stage of the development of their business and wealth, and to meet their professional needs as well as their private and family needs,” says Mr Lecomte.

In order to be able to fulfil this demanding role, advisors are enrolled on a global training programme at the bank’s Wealth Management University, which helps develop skills in sectors including wealth planning, credit, sustainable investments and digital communication.

Best private bank in Georgia 

Winner: TBC Bank

TBC Bank is a major financial group in Georgia with a strong presence across all main business segments including retail banking, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, corporate and investment management, as well as wealth management.

The bank prides itself on offering a wide range of traditional financial services paired with innovative digital solutions. Recently, it has expanded its operations to Uzbekistan where TBC Bank intends to pursue an “asset light and highly digitalised” strategy.

“[Last year] our market-leading digital channels proved to be as essential as ever, enabling our customers to conduct most of their banking transactions remotely,” explains Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO of TBC Bank. The bank provided incentives for customers to use digital channels, such as waiving commissions on certain transactions, and strengthened its digital banking proposition with the launch of new solutions.

At the height of the pandemic, TBC Bank made adjustments to its loan business, offering three-month grace periods to eligible customers and conducting loan restructuring where appropriate. It also ensured that all its products and services were available without any disruptions during the lockdowns in Georgia.

TBC Bank has recently moved away from the more traditional private banking model to one that is more subscription-based, offering customers various packages tailored to their specific needs. “Our ‘fully digital package’ became especially relevant during the pandemic, as it allows our customers to self-manage their daily banking operations and get financial advice online, while having access to all private banking customer benefits,” Mr Butskhrikidze adds.

Best private bank in Germany           

Winner: Deutsche Bank Wealth Management

In Germany, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management is “by far” the market leader by both client assets (with around a 25% share) and ultra-high-net-worth market share, advising around 70% of German billionaires worldwide. Frank Schriever, head wealth management Germany at Deutsche Bank, credits these results to various factors, including the ability to offer customised solutions, on both the investment and lending side, a close collaboration across the bank, providing clients with access to the group’s expertise, an open architecture-based capital markets desk and more than 20 years’ experience, especially within its financial engineering group.

The integrated business model is particularly suited to cover both the corporate and private needs of entrepreneurs. “Our close collaboration with other divisions, especially the corporate bank, is a key growth driver for wealth management and underlines the distinct value we offer to entrepreneurs.”

In 2020, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Germany generated 20% of all revenues with cross-divisional collaboration and achieved double-digit growth across all its product areas.  

On the discretionary portfolio management side, the core of Deutsche Bank’s client portfolios — products such as the Strategic Asset Allocation Funds, an ETF-based fund suite launched in April 2020; and the Strategic Income Allocation Funds launched in June this year — have attracted €5.4bn in assets from clients worldwide, of which €1.8bn come from Germany.

“One of our key success factors during the pandemic was our proximity to our clients as well as our proactive advisory service that provided a clear guidance and chief investment office view during this time of uncertainty,” says Mr Schriever. This contributed to boost customer satisfaction levels, which have risen for the fourth year in a row and are today at “a record high” since the onset of the pandemic.

Best private bank in Greece  

Winner: Alpha Private Bank Private Banking Services by Alpha Bank

Greece’s Alpha Bank, which offers a wide range of financial products and services in the domestic and international arena, was the first in the country to introduce private banking services nearly 30 years ago.

Alpha Bank’s private banking operation is positioned to address an environment of gradually lifting Covid restrictions through an efficient work rotation system where employees alternate between working at the office and remotely. “A key element to the effectiveness of this system is setting new norms of communication to maintain a solid team and satisfied clients,” says Andreas Katsogiannos, manager of the private banking division of Alpha Bank.

Digital tools such as e-newsletters, podcasts and Viber messages are sent to clients providing a timely and continuous flow of information to keep them up to date with issues relating to their investment portfolios and also addressing the impact of the pandemic on markets and investments. “Well-developed digital tools add value to the overall offering to clients, enhance front-line experience and lead to operational excellence,” says Mr Katsogiannos.

“Furthermore, we have proceeded with a series of virtual events with in-house and guest speakers, video calls targeting specific customer groups, as well as frequent one-on-one video calls with customers to discuss issues of significance.” All the above, have resulted in the strengthening of relations with the private banking customers and have reinforced their loyalty “as they never felt disconnected from Alpha Bank” and have been able to carry out their transactions as usual, in spite of the unprecedented developments,” he adds.

Best private bank in Hong Kong        

Winner: HSBC Private Banking

HSBC, Hong Kong’s leading wealth manager, is trying hard to replicate its success in today’s turbulent territory across the rest of Asia. This means reaching out to business elites in both China and the vibrant economies of south-east Asia neighbouring its Singapore hub.

In Hong Kong, there is a long-term legacy and franchise value, serving both high-net-worth entrepreneurs and billionaire Chinese tycoons. The Hong Kong operation is believed to have contributed close to 90% of HSBC’s pre-tax private banking profits for Asia in 2020.

In fact, Hong Kong is the largest and most profitable booking centre and the key contributor to the bank’s global client assets. HSBC says it accelerated the growth of its Hong Kong franchise and further built up its offshore China Market coverage, despite an extremely challenging environment during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the bank has earmarked a third of its investments in private banking in Asia to expand onshore private banking capabilities in mainland China, where it plans to extend its presence beyond Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou in the next five years, according to Siew Meng Tan, HSBC’s head of private banking in Asia. “The onshore private banking business in mainland China will also benefit from the group’s plans to hire 5000 client-facing wealth roles in Asia in the next five years, nearly doubling the number of relationship managers and investment counsellors serving clients,” she says.

“The competition for talent is real and a lot of the competition centres on the frontline, whether relationship managers or investment counsellors. There’s also stiff competition for product specialists, such as in the credit advisory space,” says Ms Tan.

“Our ambition is to become the world’s leading private bank for Asian, international and HSBC-connected clients. We aim to further strengthen our position to capture the significant offshore opportunities that exist in Asia, particularly within Greater China and South Asia, as we continue to grow and scale our Asian Wealth business.” 

In April 2021, HSBC announced the launch of its new institutional family office service in Hong Kong and Singapore, allowing single-family office clients across Asia to access the bank’s team of investment banking specialists, armed with a full array of financing solutions and product capabilities.

Best private bank in Hungary

Best private bank in Ukraine

Winner: OTP Private Banking

The ultimate goal of OTP Private Banking, which provides wealth management services to 73,000 clients with assets of Ä9bn in 11 countries across the central and eastern European (CEE) region, is to ensure that all clients get the same quality of service, wherever they are.

The bank sees this multi-market penetration and ability to provide a broad range of products in each country as its key advantage over competitors. At group level, the aim is to become a ‘top three’ investment service provider in the CEE region within three years.

Starting in 2021, OTP Bank has applied a new approach to its regional group strategy by integrating investment services and private banking services at group level. OTP Global Markets is now responsible for private banking and prestige private banking, portfolio management, advisory services, investment research and development of group-level investment services management activities in all 11 countries of interest.

What OTP has effectively done is develop a “special process” by setting up group-wide standards using the best private banking practices from the Hungarian parent bank, while incorporating local peculiarities and differences. “This unique approach proves to be very effective in a region which is defined as unified, but where huge diversity is reflected among the countries,” explains Attila Bánfi, managing director of OTP Global Markets.

In key markets, he has observed a tendency for capital to return from abroad and the transfer of part of the inheritance to family heirs. “The difficulties relating to free movement around the world and the risks of Covid-19 have forced customers to rethink these issues,” he says.

Although many new services have originated in Budapest, it is expected that markets such as Ukraine will also see technological innovation, says Mr Bánfi. “After being the first to launch brokerage services in the Ukrainian market in 2021, our Ukrainian subsidiary is currently developing an application for trading securities.”

Best private bank in Italy       

Winner: Banca Generali

Banca Generali’s strong performance since the start of the pandemic led the Italian bank to reach its 2019-2021 financial targets six months ahead of plan. Net inflows since the beginning of last year have exceeded €10bn, of which €6bn came in 2020 alone, helping boost client assets to almost €80bn.

“These outstanding results are mainly due to the resilience of our private bankers’ network and the quality of our offering, but also to the new environment created by the pandemic,” says Gian Maria Mossa, CEO at Banca Generali. Covid-19 has greatly accelerated the digital transformation of the Italian financial industry and technology was a key factor in retaining customers’ trust during lockdowns, he says. “This new scenario provided a boost for Banca Generali, which has been working to develop a ‘phygital’ client service approach for the past seven years.”

The bank’s “sustainable approach” is also a key success factor, both for its expanding environmental, social and governance (ESG) product offering, for which there is increasing client demand, and its business model aimed at long-term growth.

Being close to families and entrepreneurs during the pandemic was not only part of the bank’s business, but also “a moral duty”, says Mr Mossa. Among other initiatives, the bank introduced new forms of lending for entrepreneurs. Along with Credimi, a digital invoice financing platform for small and medium-sized enterprises, and the bank’s major stakeholder Assicurazioni Generali, Banca Generali issued more than €100m to support the real economy. Also, in June 2020, it launched BG4Real Economy, a programme aimed at meeting the demand for credit and private capital from businesses and the economic system through dedicated services and innovative products in the alternative space.

To pursue long-term stability and increase diversification in clients’ portfolios, the bank recently added more than 20 financial instruments to its Luxembourg-based platform, with innovation, ESG and long-term themes being the key elements of the new offering.  

Best private bank in India 

Winner: HDFC Bank Private Banking

HDFC Bank Private Banking, part of India’s largest privately-owned bank, provides customers with a product suite across all asset classes for optimal asset allocation depending on clients’ risk profiles and goals.

The bank has been on a drive to increase market share through geographic expansion by employing more relationship managers and adding new products and services, says Rakesh Singh, group head, investment and private banking, marketing and retail liability products, at HDFC Bank.

“Open architecture, optimal asset allocation and regular portfolio rebalancing with markets will drive our future growth,” he says.

“We are on a journey to digitalise as many processes as possible. The account opening process is now digital. Client reports are completely digitalised now and will be available to clients at the click of a button by the fourth quarter of the financial year 2022. Our endeavour is to have a completely digital journey for all our wealth customers, from the fourth quarter onwards,” adds Mr Singh.

These innovations and a determination to constantly improve on existing standards has resulted in the bank gaining market share in the last six months, he explains. Although outages at HDFC Bank that affected internet banking and mobile banking at the end of 2020 did not receive too many complaints, “we do acknowledge that it may have caused some concern to our clients”, admits Mr Singh.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers. We believe that the steps taken by us towards enhancing our technology setup will suitably address such concerns,” he adds.

Best private bank in Korea    

Winner: Hana Bank

In a challenging and competitive environment, Hana Bank has focused on growth, targeting new customer and business opportunities for new money with an expanding range of service offerings and target marketing.

The bank has expanded into the young wealthy entrepreneur segment, creating a digital service that combines finance with gaming in a strategic alliance with Netmarble, the leading online mobile game publisher in South Korea.

It has also launched the second of its private members clubs, Club1, in the city of Hannam-dong. This club targeted young entrepreneurs engaged in IT industry start-ups and acts as a private community space for wealthy young people in the area. “Since we launched the first Club1 in 2017, the concept has acquired strong interest from ultra-high-net-worth clients with more than around $3m in assets,” says Wonki Chung, managing director of the wealth management business group, Hana Bank. “The clubs meet the needs of these clients for differentiated, total life care services, including family office services.”

During the initial phases of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hana Bank launched diversified and specialised life care services via social network services including YouTube and the KakaoTalk mobile messaging app. The bank produced a series of videos on wealth management, expanding its target base.

“The videos reached beyond 100,000 hits over a short period of time,” says Mr Chung. “We also created diversified cultural content like modern art and wine investment. Users were able to participate in a live academy and communicate with the lecturer in real time.”

Best private bank in Luxembourg

Best private bank in the Netherlands

Winner: ING

ING Private Banking bases its customer service on identifying clients’ personal and professional needs, expectations, plans in life and goals — both financial and non-financial. Its forward planning service provides tailored advice to clients, assessing their current situation then looking forward at how assets are likely to develop. Clients can explore different scenarios and how these will affect their retirement income or their life goals.

A focus on mobile-led banking has brought all of ING’s daily banking services onto the mobile channel. It combines a seamless digital experience with personal customer service from relationship bankers. Clients use the mobile app, which has self-service features, primarily for daily banking purposes. The ING Investments App sits on top of this.

These services are part of the bank’s ultimate goal to “reinvent” private banking by creating an omnichannel service with an increased focus on digital capabilities. ING has launched Cumulus Park with the City of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and the secondary vocational school, ROC of Amsterdam. The aim of the park is to collaborate on innovation in areas such as digital identity and urbanisation. Its activities, which bring together people from various disciplines, vary from meet-ups to innovation acceleration programmes, education and research.

In Luxembourg, where ING has been established since 1960, the bank provides tailored wealth management services to residents and ultra-high-net-worth individuals with international and cross-border needs in selected markets. An “efficient way of working” and a “pragmatic range of products” in the unpredictable Covid-19 environment has helped the bank to improve its cost-to-income ratio during 2020.

The main priority of the Luxembourg bank is to retain local level expertise, but to benefit from all the advantages of a global group. Finding a balance between strategy coordination and individual leeway enables the bank to offer tailor-made solutions. Entry levels for clients start at €1m for advisory management and €2m for discretionary mandates.

Best private bank in Malaysia

Winner: CIMB Private Banking

Serving high-net-worth individuals in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, CIMB Private Banking is the wealth management arm of CIMB Group, the fifth largest bank in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region in assets under management. The private bank’s Malaysian fixed income fund is its most popular offering and now totals RM1bn ($240m) in size.

The bank also offers a discretionary mandate that can be tailored to an individual client’s investment needs and risk appetite. In addition, its separately managed account — a multi-manager, multi-asset, multi-currency discretionary mandate offering — gives individual clients the best-of-manager selection and exclusive investment strategies that have previously been available only to institutional investors, says Jefferi Hashim, CEO of CIMB Investment Bank.

“Investments in equities and fixed income as the traditional major asset classes have also proven to be popular, given about two-thirds of our high-net-worth clients have holdings of equities,” he adds.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about new set of challenges for the bank, says Mr Hashim. “We had to balance the need to maintain business continuity, while remaining focused on helping our clients during this crisis.”

Technology and digital solutions sustained critical business activities while the bank’s staff worked at home during multiple lockdowns. “It is important to ensure that we stay connected with our clients and that our ability to serve them was not compromised in any way,” he says.

The bank experienced a “positive shift” in customer preferences from physical to online interactions, and has also noted a greater acceptance among its clients for digital means of communication. “This reset in our mode of connecting with clients was especially important in order to guide them through the market volatility,” says Mr Hashim.

Best private bank in Mauritius          

Winner: MCB Private Banking and Wealth Management

As the Covid-19 pandemic struck Mauritius in March 2020, Mauritius Commercial Bank’s (MCB’s) prime focus was preserving the resilience of its activities and providing support to its customers.

“During these testing times, we successfully managed to maintain the delicate balance between the health, safety and well-being of our employees and servicing our customers,” says Alain Law Min, MCB’s chief executive.

While the bank continued to execute on its strategic pillars, it adopted a prudent approach when pursuing its expansion agenda, postponing some of its short-term business objectives.

“We delayed the unveiling of our new brand ‘M’ and monitored the local and international context to decide on the appropriate time for its launch, which was finally done this year,” explains Mr Law Min. “Similarly, system implementation to automate key processes and facilitate trading transactions were slightly delayed, but are now on track for full delivery in the coming months.”

The introduction of the ‘M’ brand was the result of a review of customer segmentation based on investable asset and fiscal residence. Alongside refining its value proposition within the existing ‘Select’ segment for affluent customers, the new ‘M’ brand focuses on serving high-net-worth clients, providing unique solutions to protect, transmit and grow their assets.

“In addition to exclusive products and services meant for their day-to-day needs, ‘M’ clients are offered tailored financing and investment solutions. They benefit from a range of wealth management offerings such as financial planning, discretionary and non-discretionary management, a fund selection service and access to exclusive private equity deals. Moreover, ‘M’ embraces the open architecture approach, which gives clients the ability to customise their investment strategies,” he explains.

The bank has also continued to work on the further implementation of its corporate sustainability programme, ‘Success Beyond Numbers’, aimed at integrating its sustainability vision and principles into its strategy and operations.

Best private bank in Mexico  

Winner: Santander Private Banking

Santander Private Banking serves more than 200,000 clients in 11 countries around the globe. The bank’s business model builds on four pillars: its geographic footprint; the scale of its financial group, Grupo Santander; innovative products and services; and digital transformation.

The latter was accelerated considerably in 2020, as Covid-19 meant clients had to adapt quickly to using digital platforms to perform transactions and access services. Santander took this as an opportunity to promote the use of digital tools across the private segment, directing efforts to improving processes and helping clients on their digitalisation journey.

During the periods when in-person interactions were not possible, private bankers kept close contact with clients on Zoom or by phone, as well as holding monthly briefings on topics including real estate, investments and credit.

Innovation has been an important growth factor for the business. Three major points of focus for Santander last year included: expanding its range of alternative products; innovating investment portfolios through a new advisory model, Future Wealth; and integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria within advisory services.

With regards to ESG, the bank’s more than 2000 bankers and advisors received special training last year, and its line of ESG products was revamped with new funds, green bonds, alternative products and exchange-traded funds, including the launch of the first local ESG equity fund in Mexico.

According to Guillermo Barreyra Devoto, head of wealth management and insurance at Santander in Mexico, clients remain the bank’s main priority. “We focus on offering them the best products and financial services for their needs and investment profiles. We want to remain close to our clients, with a great team of experts and bankers. We work to have cutting-edge digital platforms that give the best experience to existing and new clients,” he says.

Best private bank in Monaco 

Winner: Union Bancaire Privée

One of the main contributors to the growth of private banking in Monaco has been the arrival of new residents, including members of a colourful Russian expatriate community.

“The advantageous fiscal environment, as well as the high level of personal security, continue to make the principality an attractive place to live,” says Sérène El Masri, CEO of Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) Monaco.

Despite natural restrictions imposed by a tricky, mountainous terrain, she cites an “impressive number of construction projects” currently under way to address the population growth of this coastal principality.

“The Monaco housing market, as well as the French Riviera, also remain very attractive for non-resident investors,” adds Ms El Masri. “Over the past decade, the sector has posted above-average prices compared with other locations, particularly in the top segment, and transaction volumes have remained quite stable during the pandemic.”

The combination of these factors has seen the Swiss bank’s Monaco-sourced asset base, growing by double digits in both 2020 and 2021. UBP does not, however, reveal Monaco assets separately from the Swiss total, which is nudging the $120bn mark, following $9.7bn inflows in 2020 alone. Although real estate financing remains the primary financial services requirement of most Mediterranean clients, increasing numbers of wealth individuals serviced by UBP are also looking for discretionary asset management, including access to hedge funds, private equity, private debt and infrastructure investments.

“Within the context of the Monaco market specifically, our menu of alternative investments constitutes a real competitive advantage,” says Ms El Masri. “Our club-deal offering is what differentiates us from other banks in the principality.”

The bank is also busy convincing clients that their risk-adjusted returns can be further enhanced with the integration of environmental, social and governance criteria and active ownership principles into their investment strategies.

Even though 80% of clients now use e-banking services, most have continued to visit UBP’s office, complete with its impressive array of art exhibits, during the pandemic. “You cannot digitalise trust,” has become UBP’s modern-day mantra.

Best private bank in New Zealand

Winner: ANZ New Zealand Private Bank

ANZ New Zealand Private Bank, part of a subsidiary of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, offers a fully integrated banking proposition.

The private bank manages not only clients’ wealth, both investment and lending, but also provides support for their day-to-day banking needs, based on a foundation of creating outstanding long-term relationships.

A key focus in 2020 was delivering an uninterrupted service, which became especially important during New Zealand’s strict Covid-19 lockdown and beyond.

“The pandemic also validated our focus on client relationships and communication. Many of our clients are older and felt isolated during the lockdown. Private bankers made a huge effort to reach out to clients and provide financial and emotional support,” says Glenn Stevenson, general manager at ANZ Private.

Another key focus was helping clients understand what was happening in the market to avoid hasty responses to increased volatility. “We made our client communications timelier through our digital-led ‘Market Flashes’, and also introduced a series of webinars on key economic and investment-related topics. This approach meant very few clients cashed up some or all of their portfolio, so were able to benefit from the subsequent market rebound,” says Mr Stevenson.

While New Zealand’s successful Covid-19 response has driven even greater interest from migrant investors, border closures made it impossible for them to enter the country. “However, by leveraging the reach of the wider bank, in combination with our dedicated Asian private banking team, we were still able to onboard new migrant investor clients through the assistance of our overseas offices,” he explains.

“Above all though, our focus was on being there for our clients constantly and swiftly throughout the pandemic and all the new challenges that it brought with it. However, in order to help clients, we realised that we had to support our people first.” With the requirements of working from home during lockdown, subsidies have been provided to staff to properly equip their home workspace so they could work comfortably and effectively, says Mr Stevenson.

Best private bank in Nigeria  

Winner: Standard Bank Wealth and Investment

Standard Bank Wealth and Investment experienced a healthy financial performance in Nigeria in 2020, despite the global health challenge and its impact on business operations. “We conscientiously followed all health protocols and guidelines and deployed a virtual client welfare check-in strategy that went beyond just work. These further endeared the brand to our clients and resulted in more wallet share,” explains Demola Sogunle, CEO of financial services firm Stanbic IBTC Holdings, part of the Standard Bank Group.

Virtual advisory sessions allowed bankers to actively engage clients and onboard new clients during lockdown. An increase in online digital adoption and focus on client wealth preservation strategies ensured business revenue growth.

The bank’s footprint across 20 African countries, coupled with its 150 years of service, offers many benefits to clients, he claims, the most significant being “the ability to transact and trade seamlessly within the African regions”. Also, it offers a platform for cross-border regional networking for clients with businesses across the continent, adds Mr Sogunle.

The private banking and wealth management business in Nigeria is a fledgling industry, marred by significant illicit financial outflows, despite the country being the continent’s largest economy and among the ‘Big Five’ in Africa for number of high-net-worth individuals. Market awareness is generally low, but clients are now becoming more knowledgeable about wealth management opportunities, with entrepreneurs representing the biggest source of new wealth.

“We will continue to leverage our group-wide value propositions and cater to the customer lifecycle by developing innovative solutions that add value across generations for wealth preservation and growth. Our wealth of experience in financial advisory and planning will always be a key selling point,” adds Mr Sogunle.

Best private bank in Oman    

Winner: Bank Muscat

An experienced team of Omani and expatriate relationship managers (RMs) driving client acquisition and a product team providing a range of investment options to customers, appropriate for market conditions and customer preferences, has driven growth in investment assets under management at Oman’s Bank Muscat.

Private wealth across the Gulf Co-operation Council region, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has rapidly increased over the past decade, with local investors increasingly investing in international markets.

Bank Muscat’s clients typically invested in fixed income and preferred regular cash flows from their fixed income investments. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, yields have been compressed and opportunities in the fixed income space have been limited, says Abdulnasir Al Raisi, deputy general manager, premier banking, Bank Muscat.

“We have helped our clients by identifying alternate investment opportunities to generate the desired returns and cash flow. Such opportunities included equity markets as they offered good opportunities globally. Additionally, alternate investments such as real estate assets in developed markets were offered to our clients, providing regular cash flows,” he says.

Many of the bank’s new clients are millennials, who are more involved in managing their investment portfolios and prefer direct participation in equities. These clients also prefer to use technology alongside the services provided by a private banking RM.

“Our millennial clients are more open to trying out newer investment ideas and take more risk. Hence, our business needs to have a strong technology platform, provide an array of investment options and also provide a platform that can provide execution across asset classes,” says Mr Al Raisi.

Best private bank in Poland   

Winner: mBank

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, mBank’s strategy in 2020 was to put any large expansion plans aside and dedicate its full attention to existing clients. “We felt that protecting the existing wealth of our clients during turbulent times was our main mission and will contribute to further growth during the recovery phase,” explains Krzysztof Bratos, head of private banking at mBank in Poland.

Starting as early as February 2020, mBank launched a series of live online meetings between its investment team and clients, addressing some of the most pressing questions regarding the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on client portfolios.

“We asked our advisors to increase the frequency of their one-to-one digital meetings to make sure clients feel they’re being take care of,” Mr Bratos adds. “Overall, being close to our clients, both from the advisor and whole investment team sides, has helped us to manage emotions in these turbulent times and as a result to protect the asset base and prevent significant outflows.”

According to the bank, outflows during March/April 2020, at the start of the crisis, only represented 5% of total assets under management, and it was followed by a record growth of 40% during the remainder of the year.

The pandemic left the bank with no choice but to press on with the digitalisation of the last few processes that remained reliant on paper– this required not only technology tools but also the implementation of changes to internal rules, as well as gaining the acceptance of the national regulatory body with regards to digital signatures or fully digital onboarding, for instance.

 “We used 2020 to convince our clients that a hybrid service model gives them the same level of value with significantly higher flexibility,” Mr Bratos says. “Around 70% [of clients] declare they’ll prefer a hybrid model, with online meetings, also post-pandemic.”

Best private bank in Portugal

Winner: Millennium bcp

The pandemic has accelerated much needed digitalisation in private banking and Millennium bcp has more than doubled the number of digital users of both its mobile banking and securities trading apps.

“Without this ‘push’, we wouldn’t have achieved nearly as much as we did,” says Rui Coimbra, private banking general manager at the Portuguese institution. “Under lockdown for several months, the need to stay close to our clients forced us to be creative and use different communication formats.”

The bank introduced several virtual events, while also adapting internal procedures to the new digital environment. The result was a significant growth in net new money, boosting client assets, as well as the number of new clients.

Growth opportunities come especially from non-resident, high-income citizens who establish their tax residence in Portugal. Currently, more than two-thirds of the private bank’s new customers are foreigners. Lending also plays an important role, since many of these customers seek to acquire high value properties. A key client segment are also individuals seeking to obtain ‘Golden visas’, either through financial investment or venture capital funds.

Providing a “service of excellence” in account opening and lending enables the bank to gain clients’ trust, and broaden the relationship to asset management, which is the core business of the private bank.

Yet, the bank strives to be perceived not just as an asset management operation, but “the first bank that comes to peoples’ mind”, be it to have their salaries or pensions paid into or pay their bills, be it for lending or investment advice needs. 

To achieve this goal, Millennium bcp aims to improve its business model to find the ideal balance between human and digital. Moreover, its dedicated acquisition department will have to not only acquire new clients but also allocate them to the correct branch and most suitable relationship manager.

Best private bank in Qatar     

Winner: Credit Suisse

One of the main offers of Credit Suisse in the Middle East has been its ‘Supertrends’ thematic framework for high-conviction, long-term investments, focusing on multi-year, societal trends.

Through strict and prolonged lockdowns in Gulf states, including Qatar, the bank utilised the opportunity of Zoom calls and video conferences to initiate a much more intense dialogue about investments.

“This has provided compelling investment opportunities for our Middle Eastern clients, enabling them to participate and contribute to long-term themes that are both important to them and to society as a whole,” says Aladdin Hangari, CEO of Credit Suisse (Qatar).

“Qatari investors are pragmatic and well-travelled. They understand and appreciate key macroeconomic and global trends emerging around us. Our Supertrends and related solutions have in turn added significant value to our clients over the past three years.”

The bank says remaining close to clients, focusing on their profitability via enhanced portfolio reviews and monitoring strategic asset allocation have been the three tenets of its success. But identifying investment themes and narrating the stories around them has also boosted portfolio returns. “It is equally important to be able to proactively advise our clients on their global, emerging market and local investments, as well as private capital, while also offering solutions in both asset and liability management,” says Mr Hangari.

Credit Suisse has been keen to remain the “partner of choice” for ultra-high-net-worth individuals and institutional clients, bringing together investment banking, wealth management and asset management for its key entrepreneurial segment. But this integrated structure has been questioned during a torrid time, marked by scandals and clients suing for losses.

While it remains to be seen how the bank’s brand will cope with operational and reputational issues, Credit Suisse maintains it has an “excellent combination of clients and franchises”, with employees working in a client-centric manner. “[We] have already taken extensive measures to address these issues and emerge stronger,” according to the bank.

Best private bank in Romania

Best private bank in Russia

Winner: Raiffeisen Bank Romania, Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen Russia

A key focus for Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen (FWR) Russia last year was the business integration with Austrian private bank Kathrein Privatbank, owned by the Raiffeisen banking group since 1977.

The target was to provide clients with a “fully pledged private banking offshore platform in Austria”, says Svetlana Grigoryan, managing director, FWR Russia.

Being a one-stop shop for clients, providing access to a “full-scale bank both in Russia and Austria”, is a key competitive advantage in a country where state-owned or quasi state-owned banks hold a large market share, which hinders the “development of healthy market competition”, she adds.

FWR’s international platform, allowing higher product quality, better pricing and greater client comfort, is expected to attract assets of Russian wealthy individuals, traditionally reluctant to keep savings in-country. Almost two-thirds of the wealth of Russian high-net-worth individuals is held in banking accounts outside the country. “Our cross-board approach becomes an opportunity to grow our business,” says Ms Grigoryan.

The bank serves clients with an estimated wealth of €1m to €50m, “with a clear and transparent income structure”. FWR’s motto, “Save and invest with a sound Western bank and remain compliant with Russian regulations”, has generated a six-fold growth of client assets since 2011. In 2020 alone, the number of clients with more than Rbs100m ($1.4m) in ticket size grew 34%.

In 2020, in collaboration with a local asset management firm, FWR Romania launched an environmental, social and governance equity fund, hailed as “one of the most successful equity products in the local market”, says Adrian-Florin Negru, director of private banking FWR Romania.

The bank’s investment competence centre, its strong line-up of in-house investment products, personalised to client needs, and client service are the main factors that differentiate the bank from competition, states Mr Negru. In the future, the bank aims to gain better and more cost-effective access to international equity markets, building a more diversified, alternative product offering and improving digitalisation.

Best private bank in Saudi Arabia

Winner: SNB Private Banking

Saudi National Bank (SNB) is the result of the merger between National Commercial Bank (NCB) and Samba Financial Group, completed in April this year. Headquartered in Riyadh, the bank’s new motto is “Let’s Shape Tomorrow”, reflecting its vision for the future.

SNB Private Banking serves its clients through four dedicated branches in the country’s four main cities: Makkah, Jeddah, Riyadh and Al Khobar.

Clients of SNB Private Banking have access to a combination of exclusive services and investment solutions tailored to their needs, all backed by a highly-skilled team of relationship managers with local and international expertise who can provide advice that helps expand the investment horizons for its clients.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, close co-operation with Saudi authorities meant that critical government and SNB support measures reached the bank’s customers when they needed them most. “Despite various movement restrictions and social distancing measures, SNB ensured that customers could use our banking services normally. As the pandemic unfolded, government and SNB support measures were rolled out to help customers cope with the emerging impacts,” says a spokesperson for the bank.

During the period, digital uptake was accelerated as a matter of necessity. “As part of the bank’s longstanding strategy to develop technology infrastructure, our lean distribution and digitalisation were very well positioned to respond swiftly to the crisis. As a result, the bank ensured seamless delivery of normal services to our customers, while gaining traction on our digital transformation and productivity strategies to increase operational efficiency and customer convenience,” adds the spokesperson.

Best private bank in Singapore          

Winner: Standard Chartered Private Bank

Standard Chartered Private Bank has continued to make inroads into the high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth client segments, experiencing significant growth in client assets from billionaires, which rose by more than 30% year-on-year in 2020.

The bank prides itself on offering a “truly open architecture platform” and adopting an “open-source approach to advice”, curating research across more than 50 industry sources.

More than 20 senior relationship managers joined the institution from top competitors since early 2020, with advisors at Standard Chartered having more than 10 years’ experience in the market on average.

Its digitalisation journey accelerated significantly. The adoption rate of its banking app doubled to 68% globally in 2020, while the usage of market insights capabilities experienced a 4.5-fold increase. Portfolio views and client engagement also increased 60% year-on-year. Moreover, automation of processes improved remarkably, resulting in 90% automation in wealth and investment trade operations, facilitated by the adoption of digital signatures.

Standard Chartered has also improved its impact and sustainable offering. Among other initiatives, it launched “the first environmental, social and governance (ESG) fixed maturity portfolio in the industry”, which selects bonds that are less likely to default over the portfolio’s lifespan. It also introduced “the first-ever” Singapore dollar sustainable time deposit.

Moreover, the bank included ESG scores as part of equity, equity derivative and fixed income trade notes, improved the evaluation of funds according to sustainability criteria, and built an internal community of private bankers and investment specialists to engage in conversations on sustainable and impact finance.

As a result, client assets in sustainable investments grew threefold in 2020, and a further 30% in 2021 year-to-date.

Best private bank in Slovakia 

Winner: Tatra banka

Tatra banka started the digitalisation of its private banking services years ago, a decision that paid off during the course of 2020.

“The pandemic situation has confirmed that [digitalisation] was the right decision, despite the fact that when the project started, we had no idea of what was to come,” says Marek Neckár, head of private banking at Tatra banka. The bank’s strong digital infrastructure allowed it to maintain high quality services to its clients throughout the crisis, he explains.

Attracting new clients is at the heart of the bank’s growth strategy, but the impossibility of face-to-face interactions at height of the pandemic made the client acquisition process more challenging. “Our strategy was to continue our acquisition activities and prepare clients for the next possible in-person meetings, which helped us to maintain our pre-pandemic level of acquisition success,” says Mr Neckár.

Millennials and the younger generations represent a key market segment for Tatra banka and the business has directed marketing efforts towards attracting that part of the population. The boldest and most creative move was a campaign fronted by ‘Bejby Blue’, a virtual character described by the bank as “the first digital influencer in central Europe”, who gained thousands of social media followers in a short period of time.

“Tatra banka has been systematically building communication with the younger generations for several years — this is one of our strategic goals. The young target group represents potential for the future and helps us build a customer base in general. Of course, over time and as clients get older, they also have the potential to move into the private segment,” Mr Neckár adds.

Best private bank in South Africa

Best private bank in Africa for customer service      

Winner: Investec

During the unprecedented Covid-19 period, and its associated crisis in markets and public health, the C-suite at Investec in Johannesburg, South Africa, decided that they must further increase their reliance on technology and data analysis.

“Market behaviour isn’t rational, and this is acutely evident during periods of heightened uncertainty,” says Henry Blumenthal, chief executive at Investec Wealth and Investment (South Africa). “With a plethora of information and data available, it is appropriate to maintain a continued focus on data analysis. This enables a sense of clarity and understanding that supports better portfolio management and asset allocation.”

The view at Investec was that both diversification and resilience remained key during a time of heightened volatility and emotions. “Concentrating on data gathering and analysis versus asset and portfolio management isn’t a trade-off — the two are interdependent,” believes Mr Blumenthal.

The growing scope of alternative asset classes has also played a part in offering diversification to improve returns. “This is underscored by the global trend that shows private assets in portfolios of high-net-worth individuals and families steadily increasing,” he says. “We believe South Africa is likely to follow this trend.”

Investec has also been blazing a trail for diversity and inclusivity for many years. “We know that diversity inherently gives rise to a more inclusive environment. Diverse teams perform better. They challenge the status quo, can overcome greater complexity in problem-solving, inspire innovation and thrive in an ever-changing environment,” says Cumesh Moodliar, head of Investec Private Banking (South Africa).

“Diverse representation within product development and through ideation processes provides opportunities for offerings, campaigns and initiatives that are intentionally inclusive of various societal segments.”

Best private bank in Spain     

Winner: CaixaBank

CaixaBank, a prime mover in Spain’s recent private banking boom, is being fast pursued by a host of high-quality players, including traditional rivals BBVA and Santander, and an emerging cohort of high-tech pioneers. But the intense competition is welcomed by the bank’s board.

“The Spanish ecosystem is becoming increasingly richer and more competitive with new arrivals such as fintechs and the advisory services launched by insurance companies,” comments Victor Allende, director of CaixaBank Private Banking, whose private client assets have recently risen to $96bn.

“This is good for everyone: for customers because they have more choice, and for the more established institutions because it forces us to keep improving our model and expanding services.”

It is with mixed emotions, however, that Mr Allende regards the exodus of international private banks from his home country, where they were once the dominant force before the Spanish evolution in financial services. While he laments the nation’s loss of vital private banking expertise, he also accepts the positive angle. “This shows us that stability and increasingly better services are being provided by the domestic firms, with integrated networked private banking models,” comments Mr Allende.

The key offer of such integrated firms, he believes, is the ability to focus on a broad financial planning methodology, which generates effective investment proposals, rather than just concentrating on selling a series of products. Mr Allende insists that any apparent bias towards mutual funds belies the fact that clients’ portfolios are composed of a broader range of instruments.

“Our relative position is stronger not only in funds, but also in savings, insurance and pension plans,” says Mr Allende. “In my opinion, that is the litmus test. If you advise and conduct financial planning, the result should be high diversification and a position in equity securities consistent with clients’ long-term objectives.”

Best private bank in Taiwan  

Winner: Taishin International Bank

Taiwan’s Taishin International Bank has developed its private banking offering through a combination of understanding customer behaviour and customising products and services.

Although the country’s wealth management business was not significantly affected by Covid-19 in 2020, the bank is taking future threats from the pandemic seriously.

It is therefore investing in video conferencing and a financial intelligence app to engage with customers remotely, says Samuel Lin, deputy CEO of Taishin International Bank.

“Taishin Bank is actively integrating financial services with new technologies, to accelerate services and further add value,” he says.

Mr Lin says the app has seen eight million downloads so far and 30 online seminars were held by video conferencing, with a total of 2000 people participating.

Aside from technological developments, Taishin International Bank has sought to increase its environmental, social and governance (ESG) offerings, launching a number of ESG-focused funds.

It is also seeking to improve employee performance, especially in light of a T$30m ($1.1m) fine imposed on the bank in July by Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) for lax controls that led to criminal behaviour from an employee in the wealth management division.

“We have addressed all issues raised by the FSC since this incident happened. We have built, in addition to the current system, additional check-up points to avoid such incidents happening again. We are constantly adjusting to improve, as well achieving the objectives in serving our clients, and have no reason to believe that one employee’s fraudulent behaviour will affect our overall standard,” adds Mr Lin.

Best private bank in Thailand

Winner: Kasikornbank Private Banking

A focus on exclusivity and improving client service has helped Thailand’s Kasikornbank Private Banking to increase assets under management and build on its client base, outstripping the national growth of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in the country.

“Most of the growth in the numbers of our clients is due to our clients’ recommendations,” says a spokesperson at the bank. “We improve our services based on a range of insights including global economic trends and input from clients. Introducing products that are based on clients’ needs attracts the attention of other HNWIs.”

An example is the bank’s ‘Land Loan for Investment’ product, which enables clients with assets of more than Bt50m ($1.5m) to request loans for investment using land as a collateral asset. “New clients started investing with us just to use the service.”

During the past few years, the bank has also focused on sustainability and sharing. “The concept of sustainability is part of every activity from investment products, advisories, marketing events, gifts, etc. We attempt to inspire clients and drive sustainability throughout society,” says the spokesperson.

With personal contact a crucial factor in its success, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge. “The pandemic significantly changed the way we service our clients. With limitations on personal contact, we have encouraged our private bankers to increase the frequency of contact with clients via digital channels,” says the spokesperson.

These calls not only focused on updating clients about their investments, but also included conversations about their health and welfare and their concerns during the pandemic.

“The digital channels are used to support the service of our private bankers, but will never replace personal contact. We aim to balance the two,” they add.

Best private bank in Turkey   

Winner: Akbank Private Banking

Akbank Private Banking leverages its synergy with subsidiaries Ak Asset Management and brokerage house Ak Investment to offer a broad range of investment solutions, which can be customised to meet client needs.

Last year, it launched new solutions to meet sustainability challenges, including the alternative energy and healthcare technologies funds.

Its client assets grew by 27% to reach TL39bn ($4.4bn), while generating an income stream that is “stable and resilient to market dynamics”, explains Alp Keler, executive vice-president, private banking and wealth management at Akbank.

The private bank claims one of its key differentiating factors is its “experienced and digitally empowered team”. Recent digital innovations include the new signature-free tool, Finish with Mobile, where transactions are initiated by private bankers and approvals are completed on clients’ mobile app. The bank also introduced an instant foreign exchange (FX) platform, allowing clients to follow FX and gold rates and execute transactions on their mobiles.

Through its development programme, the institution aims to provide private bankers with a deeper understanding of clients, both in terms of their financial expectations and their lifestyles. “The programme equips private bankers with financial and digital capabilities, as well as softer skills,” explains Mr Keler, believing it is a “magnet for talent”.

A new platform, Winvestors, connects entrepreneurs and investors. By hosting online events, the tool enables clients to meet different stakeholders, such as angel investors and corporate venture executives.

Akbank Private Banking aims to build a long-lasting relationship with its clients, helping them protect and pass their wealth on to the next generation. Its Next Generation Programme is “the first of its kind in Turkey”.

The private bank views wealth “as the combination of culture, values and taste” and aims to providing services which “inspire and nurture clients”, says Mr Keler.

Best private bank in the UAE 

Winner: Mashreq Bank

Established in 1967, Mashreq Bank is the oldest bank in the United Arab Emirates and is one of the largest private sector banks in the country.

The bank offers a diversified range of private banking products catering to clients from the UAE, the wider Gulf Co-operation Council region and the rest of the world. It has operations in 19 countries, combined with offshore booking capabilities. “We are effectively a one-stop solution to meet the evolving needs of our clientele,” says Vipul Kapur, head of private banking at Mashreq Bank. “Our clients have access to a wide range of financial solutions ranging from bespoke investment portfolios, wealth structuring, legacy planning and lending solutions.”

In 2020, the bank launched several solutions including Comarch and FinIQ for improved portfolio reporting and transacting capabilities. It also upgraded its foreign exchange and futures trading suite of products to include the MT5 Platform. Mr Kapur says the bank is the only one in the region to offer this advanced trading system.

Income-orientated multi-asset fund solutions have proved popular for the bank’s clients. Its Funds Platform spans various strategies from pure credit to multi-asset, equity only or alternative investments strategies. The platform contains funds across both the conventional and the Islamic space.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Mashreq Bank advised clients to hold on to their assets. Government measures to ease fiscal and monetary pressures in the region helped equity and credit markets to improve significantly. “Investors who pulled back their investments during the early pandemic period weren’t able to fully capitalise on the opportunities the market presented,” Mr Kapur says.

Best private bank in the UK   

Winner: Coutts

Much of Coutts’s success in the UK came after pulling out of loss-making, complex business strategies across Asia and Switzerland. Since the refocus, this high-touch private bank has concentrated on a much deeper penetration across the UK’s regions. This has proved fruitful, with client assets surging dramatically to $40bn in 2020 from $32bn in 2019.

“The regions across the UK have always been important to us as every community has its own personality and identity, entrepreneurial and professional networks,” says Peter Flavel, the bank’s chief executive. “It is important to understand the local ecosystems and business activity, and be accessible, when working to support clients in the regions.”

This regional presence has recently been enhanced in Scotland, where the bank has opened new branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. “We combine the best of both worlds, with great local teams and people who are part of and know their communities well, supported by additional subject matter expertise from our London and Bristol central offices,” says Mr Flavel. “This is an approach we have taken for many years, and it is interesting to see many of our competitors start to try and establish a similar presence.”

Although the UK is now the key hub for Coutts’ entrepreneurial clients, the bank is keen to efficiently represent these families’ interests, be they in the UK, the Middle East, Asia or the Americas. “Our global span of entrepreneurial clients comprises of leaders in technology, sustainable energy, environmental improvements, real estate innovation, emerging industries, worldwide transport, positive media influencers and social philanthropy,” he says.

“We help our global client family inside their various jurisdictions by connecting them to each other to support their growth in business and influence. We also introduce them to our very exclusive and highly influential worldwide network of what we call ‘friends and family’, including leading lawyers, strategy consultants, accountants, property agents, intelligence professionals, market strategists, communications experts and trend influencers.”

Best private bank in the US

Best private bank in the US for family offices

Winner: Northern Trust

Despite a pandemic-era scramble for talent, Northern Trust prides itself in continuing to attract top-notch private bankers able to service wealthy families. “Competition is fierce and yet there has never been a better time to attract talent, which is precisely what we have been doing,” reveals Steven L Fradkin, president of Northern Trust Wealth Management.

The bank competes for both ultra-high-net-worth clients and relationships managers, using its key selling points of goals-driven wealth management, combined with thought leadership insights from the Northern Trust Institute. “These are important differentiators in our mission to provide the right advice to the right client at the right time,” says Mr Fradkin.

The advice model of the future will be data-driven, personalised and continuously available, he says, justifying continued investment in the Northern Trust Institute — a data-driven think-tank deploying predictive analytics — to help drive the firm’s digital metamorphosis, creating “a frictionless, omnichannel experience for our clients — advisor-led but supported by robust self-service capabilities”.

This new experience involves exposure to leading managers of private equity, credit, real estate and infrastructure assets, including environmental, social and governance and impact funds, as portfolio return enhancers and diversifiers.

There has been a strong desire during the pandemic not to let exceptional circumstances dictate transactions. “As advisors, we need to prepare clients for all types of capital market environments and create portfolios to withstand stress without undermining their ability to fund near-term goals — including, importantly, lifestyle funding,” says Mr Fradkin. “We do not want our clients to be in the position of having to sell risk assets at depressed prices.”

While most clients have lived in the US, there is more emphasis today on deepening Northern Trust’s international footprint, an aim of David W Fox Jr, president of Northern Trust’s global family and private investment office services. “Serving the largest families and family offices in the world,” says Mr Fox, “continues to be an attractive area of growth for Northern Trust both in and outside the US.”

Best private bank for alternatives 

Winner: LGT

Founded in 1920, the LGT private banking and asset management group is fully owned and managed by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein and has been advising clients on the merits of alternative investments for more than 20 years.

Alternatives help improve portfolios’ risk/return characteristics, yet even clients with the required experience and long-term investment horizon are “very often under-allocated”, says Olivier de Perregaux, CEO at LGT Private Banking. There has, however, been “a steady increase” in private client demand for alternatives over the past five years, especially in private equity (PE), and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. In particular, private clients have shown increased appetite for PE offerings with a “strong environmental, social and governance/impact focus”.

While LGT’s discretionary portfolio management solutions have a 12% strategic allocation to alternatives, private clients with a more growth-oriented risk profile can invest alongside the LGT Princely Strategy, which is one of the largest endowment funds in Europe, with a strategic allocation of more than 50% to alternatives and private markets.

LGT’s flagship product allows clients to benefit from an alignment of interests with the firm’s owner and gain access to a broad range of alternative solutions offered by sister companies LGT Capital Partners and impact investing PE firm Lightrock.

High-net-worth customers also benefit from the industry network LGT has built over several years. “This is important because for many alternative asset classes, the key to achieving good performance is having access to managers and strategies that are often closed to the broad public,” explains Mr de Perregaux.

Best private bank for customer service (Global) 

Winner: BBVA Private Banking

Thanks to existing digital capabilities and technology infrastructure, BBVA Private Banking was able to provide service continuity to customers from the beginning of the pandemic, allowing clients to monitor their investments in real time and carry out most operations through digital channels.

 “All digital capabilities that we’ve been developing in the last years have been especially useful during this pandemic,” says Jorge Gordo, head of BBVA Private Banking. Before the crisis, clients were generally more dependent on bankers and would go to BBVA branches for any operation or advice. “Now, clients have realised that digital channels can keep them updated, and it’s really practical to operate through the app or web in a really secure way. They only go and see their banker for important meetings,” he says, expecting this to remain in the future.

The remote wealth management capabilities of relationship managers have been enhanced, so that clients can choose the most convenient communication channel to access their private bankers.

The Spanish institution has also increased its focus on the ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) segment, enriching its value proposition and introducing new personalised services. Each UHNW client has now access to a team of experts. The aim, says Mr Gordo, is to provide clients with a “360-degree service”, leveraging on all specialised areas of BBVA group. 

A new advisory service helps family customers with the succession, growth and management of their business.

One of BBVA’s key priorities is sustainability. “We are working really hard to be able to offer an equivalent sustainable product in all our clients’ proposals,” says Mr Gordo. The private bank offers a growing number of sustainable and impact solutions to customers and can measure, and report on, the level of sustainability of all assets in client portfolios.

BBVA Private Banking has launched a three-year strategic plan to 2024, to improve its customer service and key performance indicators. The focus is to offer a personalised value proposition to a larger base of clients, and further improve its digital and remote capabilities.

Best private bank for customer service (Asia)

Winner: Siam Commercial Bank — Private Banking

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) Private Banking uses artificial intelligence (AI) to manage and optimise its investment portfolio, claiming to be the first among banks in Thailand to do so. Its platform has been developed to be “future proofed”, encompassing not only clients’ needs but also those of their offspring.

“Our platforms and products are run by AI, using alternative data on a risk appetite and an investment philosophy tailored to our clients and designed to be future-proofed,” says a SCB spokesperson. “As such, we provide investment services that are fully customisable with expansive investment timelines. Future themes include environmental, social and governance, digital health and sustainable investments.”

In addition to the front-end, customer-facing platforms, SCB’s back-end systems are cloud-based and use quantitative models to cater to client demands. The bank’s investment strategy is based on algorithms that have provided “superior returns”, beating the benchmark by “a wide margin over the past five years”.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated changes in client expectations, with their preferred channels for investment transactions and advisory services shifting towards digital options. “The key challenges are how we deliver a seamless experience to clients across all channels,” says the spokesperson.

Clients can open all types of SCB accounts via a digital platform, iOnboard, by providing a one-time digital signature. Investment transactions can be remotely made by dedicated private banking advisers using a secure communication channel. This ensures the client has a single contact point to ensure seamless services. The bank’s advisory platform, BarraOne, provides clients with instant advisory and has proved particularly effective during the pandemic.

Best private bank for customer service (Europe)      

Winner: Berenberg

As part of its push to further boost customer service, Berenberg, which claims to be one of the world’s oldest banks, introduced digital onboarding for wealth management clients in 2020 and 2021.

Digital communication channels, more efficient and focused than in-person contact, have contributed to the bank’s “relationship-based service culture” during the pandemic, working with several generations of wealthy families, says Klaus Naeve, co-head of wealth and asset management at Berenberg, which oversees $49bn in private client assets.

“We convinced our relationship managers that digitalisation is an additional tool to help them serve clients,” says Mr Naeve. “Digitalisation does not replace personal interaction. It enhances it. It gives the relationship manager more time for the important things in customer contact.”

Contact with clients intensified at the beginning of the pandemic, primarily due to the volatility of the markets, he recalls. “The uncertainty was particularly pronounced at the start of the lockdown, as there was no comparable event going back in history. It was critical to provide transparent and regular communication to our clients.”

Improving the asset mix has been critical to navigating these uncertain markets. In 2020, Berenberg entered a partnership with the Moonfare digital private assets investment platform, to provide customers with access to top-tier private equity funds. “Berenberg’s clients can now benefit from access to high return investments and have the opportunity to further diversify their portfolios to include another asset class,” says Mr Naeve.

In addition to exploring opportunities in real estate and farmland investments, the bank is also using its corporate banking connections in the infrastructure and energy sectors to provide clients with “innovative investments” in wind, solar and infrastructure projects.

Beyond Germany, Berenberg also has strong ambitions in London, where it launched its UK wealth and asset management business in 2011, with client service the key priority. “All our meetings with clients are focused on assessing the client’s individual situation,” says Mr Naeve. “It is simple, but listening to the clients is the foundation of any strong relationship.”

Best private bank for customer service in the US

Best private bank in the US for succession planning

Winner: Bank of America Private Bank

Bank of America prides itself on combining a “highly customised”, boutique client experience with providing access “to one of the world’s largest financial institutions, including the top global research team, a tremendous balance sheet for lending and $10bn annual in technology investments,” says Jeff Busconi, chief operating officer at Bank of America Private Bank. The bank’s approach, defined as “hi-tech and high touch”, enables clients’ sophisticated and complex needs to be met, including custom lending, philanthropy, art services, environmental, social and governance investing and specialty asset management.

A key differentiator for the US institution is its ability to handle non-financial assets in a portfolio, which originates from the private bank’s long history of managing those types of assets in trusts.

With Covid-19 leading clients to reassess their priorities, combined with the start of the great wealth transfer, the US institution has been focused on meeting the increased wealth, estate and philanthropic planning needs of its clients and their families. Moreover, owners whose businesses succeeded through the pandemic are now increasingly considering a transition, especially in light of high valuations and with potential tax changes on the horizon.

“Clients want to ensure their families are protected, that they’re living their legacy and that their values are passed on to future generations,” says Mr Busconi.

Clients plan to pass 80% of their wealth to family, yet nearly 60% are not confident their children will use the money responsibly, reports Jesse Mandell, whole family engagement strategist at the bank. “We aim to close that gap and reinvigorated our work providing family meetings and financial education through our bespoke programme, financial empowerment, reaching more families in 2020 than in 2019 — and all virtually.”

With an intentional focus on the under-represented communities of women, people of colour and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus (LGBT+), the bank implemented several initiatives and routines which aim to retain and promote its existing diverse workforce, while attracting additional diverse talent.

Best private bank for diversity and inclusion

Best private bank for wealthy women

Best private bank for UHNW clients 

Winner: JPMorgan Private Bank

During the pandemic, JPMorgan private bankers were able to deepen relationships with their clients, providing views on the world, the economy and market solutions, and also to engage more with the next generation, explains Martin Marron, CEO, JPMorgan Private Bank, International. “Clients strongly appreciated that, during such turbulent and uncertain times, JPMorgan Chase remained a place of strength, from the perspective of both our balance sheet and investment performance.”

The bank hosted hundreds of virtual events, recording “greater attendance and appetite than we could have ever imagined”.

Digital became a larger part of its offering, with the institution continuing to invest in its online capabilities, e-delivery of important materials and digital enhancements across the platform. Yet, clients also expect human interaction when it comes to personalised advice, the facilitating of family meetings, or help managing through transition events, he adds.

The mix of “trust, discretion of integrity” helped the private bank attract around $16bn in net new money in 2020, contributing to the 10% growth in client assets to $690bn.

“Our continued results are directly related to the calibre of people and investment performance we continue to deliver for our clients, year after year,” states Mr Marron.

The bank has long been committed to diversity and inclusion around the globe. Internally, it boasts “a very vibrant and engaged network” of more than 200 business resource groups. These include those on gender and racial equity, such as Women on the Move, the Black Organization for Leadership Development, PRIDE, focused on the LGBT+ community and Adelante, a Latino/Hispanic business resource group.

The bank also developed allyship programmes, began a women and wealth ambassador initiative, and launched initiatives aimed at engaging affluent people of colour through conversations, experiences and content.


Best private bank for education and training of private bankers

Winner: Banco do Brasil Private

Banco do Brasil’s private banking operation BB Private, which has been operating in the country’s private banking market for 17 years, has continued to improve the education and training of staff in recent years.

“We believe that investing in the training of private professionals is the key to offering quality and complete financial/banking advice,” says Joao Carlos de Nobrega Pecego, vice-president, wholesale business at Banco do Brasil.

“It is important to customise training initiatives according to the seniority level of the professionals and specificities of the market in which they operate,” he says.

“For this reason, in addition to the general training common to all bankers, we offer courses according to the specific needs of the employee and the profile of the clients they serve. In this sense, there is a certain differentiation between training for bankers who work with megaproducers versus investors, for example,” adds Mr Pecego.

In 2021, for all BB Private bankers, the in-company MBA programme developed in partnership with Fundação Getúlio Vargas, one of the most renowned educational institutions in Brazil, was continued and extended to a larger contingent of employees.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank carried out a variety of training courses aimed at technical improvement, emotional health and customer relationships in times of social isolation.

“During this period, we reinforced the process of education and training of bankers, investing in several live events,” says Mr Pecego.

Best private bank for family offices (global)

Best private bank for innovation

Best performing global private bank

Winner: Citi Private Bank

Fundamental shifts in human behaviours have affected private banking as much as other activities in business and society, according to strategists at Citi. “We have adapted and updated our own way of thinking and communicating with clients to ensure we are meeting their needs, and we will continue to do so to guarantee we are offering best in class service,” comments Luigi Pigorini, regional head of Citi Private Bank for the Europe, the Middle East and Africa region.

The operation manages $358bn, having seen huge inflows in 2020, alongside development of innovative tools during the pandemic. This transformation encompasses the use of artificial intelligence and smarter tools to help provide investment advice. “That is ultimately the core of what a good private bank will offer its clients and will continue to be so, whatever the market environment,” he says. “Our advisors benefit from access to data analytical tools, which help identify when clients should be called with timely investment advice or when identifying opportunities and running simulations, that fit specific client needs,” says Mr Pigorini.

If anything, he says, the speed at which markets reacted to the initial wave of the pandemic only highlights the need for such tools to help advisors deliver advice efficientl-y.

This market volatility has once more opened the door to alternative investments, with Citi reporting a rise in both direct investing and in private enterprise that reflects deep confidence in the flexibility and strength of the global economy.

Family offices, according to the bank, have the benefit of being highly sophisticated investors with deep expertise in certain sectors, along with being able to commit capital at significant size and speed, often with different investment time horizons. Consequently, Citi has seen interest in private investment rise steadily in recent years.

Best private bank in Asia for family offices   

Winner: DBS Bank

As well as building up a pan-regional reputation through innovative practices in its south-east Asian stomping grounds, Singapore’s DBS is increasingly sweeping up business from Western families looking at Eastern investment objectives. Its fast-growing wealth management franchise now sees the bank managing $142bn in client assets.

DBS says it is witnessing “a shared and fast-growing interest in Asia” from families both in the East and West. While considering both fiscal and jurisdictional factors when choosing a long-term landing point for their families and assets, these families are also on the lookout for regional investment opportunities, not just in financial markets and real estate, but also in opportunities with local business owners from similar business lines.

Against this backdrop, DBS is promoting the attraction of what it describes as ‘Singapore Inc’: “a cocktail of attributes including a strong force of law, political and economic stability, and high quality of life, as well as its strategic position as a lighthouse to the region’s opportunities”. The bank believes Singapore will serve as “a compelling magnet for families worldwide”, increasingly standing out as a base from which to invest in Asia’s vast growth potential.

The pandemic has further accentuated Singapore’s appeal to these families, many of whom were impressed by its transparency and tenacity in handling the crisis in contrast to efforts in their home countries, and the agility throughout Singapore’s family office ecosystem. Regulations such as the launch of the Variable Capital Company, a wealth planning tool for multi-family offices, have made this mix more attractive. DBS has also doubled down on “intelligent banking”, harnessing artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to deliver “hyper-personalised” portfolio solutions. It understands it must remain at the cutting edge of innovation, as competition in the fast-moving Asian landscape is now as likely to come from the new-age fintechs as the global behemoths of UBS and Credit Suisse.

Best private bank for impact and sustainable investing       

Winner: Lombard Odier

Lombard Odier, which is a certified ‘B corp’, meaning it passes social and environmental metrics set by B Lab, a non-govern-mental organisation, has developed its expertise and offering since the late 1990s, with the launch of its proprietary environmental, social and governance/consciousness, action and results framewor-k.

Today, Lombard Odier’s sustainable investment research, strategy and stewardship team is comprised of economists, environmental engineers, scientists, financial and geospatial analysts, who are responsible for the methodology and scientific framework that underpins the bank’s investment decisions. Partnerships with the University of Oxford and consultancy SystemIQ validate the bank’s scientific assumptions and stress test its models.

The Swiss bank believes it is critical to integrate “robust, science-based analysis” into its investment process, and to engage in ongoing dialogue with companies to inform this analysis. The aim is to understand companies’ levels of alignment with the sustainability transition.

“We do not only invest in companies in low carbon sectors today, as we recognise that most of the transition will take place in higher carbon sectors,” says Patrick Odier, senior managing partner, Lombard Odier.

Market forces are often underestimated, he says, and with the right incentives, capitalism can be very powerful. “As the price of green solutions continues to fall, business models will adapt very quickly, creating interesting opportunities,” adds Mr Odier.

The firm’s temperature alignment framework, launched in 2020, enables investors to direct capital towards carbon-intensive, yet Paris-aligned companies that are critical to the economy, as well as the journey to net zero. It also allows investors to avoid companies most responsible for climate change and most at risk in the climate transition.

The bank also recently introduced the concept of ‘climate value impact’ to assess the financial exposure that companies face in front of their respective transition trajectories, while providing physical and liability risk insights. 

Best private bank for Islamic services 

Winner: Maybank Islamic

Maybank is the largest bank in Malaysia by market capitalisation and the only bank with presence in all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries, with operations in key financial centres across the world.

Maybank’s private banking arm goes beyond providing investment solutions — its aim is to act as a wealth partner to its private clients, helping them diversify their assets into trusts, insurance products, as well corporate banking solutions across the Asean region, thus fulfilling its ‘One Bank’ approach.

Between 2019 and 2020, Maybank Private’s client base grew by 9.2%, with an average net worth of RM6.3m ($1.5m) per private client. Over the past year, the bank’s private client platform has been improved by a number of organisational changes and new hires, the expansion of its product offerings, and numerous client engagement initiatives.

The bank continues its leadership in the Islamic private banking space through Maybank Islamic Berhad (MIB), the largest Islamic finance provider in Malaysia and Asean, and one of the largest Islamic banks globally.

“We continue to be the catalyst for innovation with the continued emphasis on product differentiation and sharia research initiatives. Maybank Islamic developed and launched two new innovative products in 2020, and we are currently looking at expanding our product range in this key area of our business,” says Carolyn Leng, head of private wealth at Maybank in Malaysia. 

Currently, Maybank is looking to build up its Islamic wealth management proposition by identifying and working with partners on sharia-compliant unit trusts as well as developing sharia-compliant structured products.

Best private bank for philanthropy services 

Winner: Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management

Supported by more than 100 dedicated professionals, Wells Fargo’s values-based consulting model helps clients identify the true meaning of strategic philanthropy. Through conversations that address not just financial, but broader considerations, like core values and multigenerational wealth transitions, clients are encouraged to spend time “wrestling with the problems and issues they are seeking to solve”. This includes site visits and interviews with organisational leadership.

“In truth, it means mobilising networks and using influence in addition to making monetary gifts,” says Beth Renner, head of the advice centre for Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management’s Advice and Planning Centre of Excellence.

Clients want to work with subject matter experts who have the “acumen” to address the tax issues surrounding assets, but also seek professionals who have “a broad lens when it comes to understanding how philanthropy actually works”, she adds.

The philanthropic services team not only helps clients identify the best and most efficient ways to give, but also how to maximise the impact of their donations. Far from being transactional, philanthropy is a long-term collaboration. “Follow-up conversations and check-ins are expected both from our clients, our philanthropy teams and the organisations our clients are engaged with. It’s a true partnership, and one we support over the long term with our clients,” she says.

While it is important to recognise the diversity of values and perspectives across all generations, philanthropy can be a powerful tool for sharing stories, family history and values, supporting the teaching of financial literacy to the next generation. “This shared sense of the long term contributes to a smoother transition of financial assets and deepens the understanding of a family’s values,” says Ms Renner.

Best private bank in Europe for succession planning 

Winner: Edmond de Rothschild

Over the past two years, Edmond de Rothschild has built an integrated wealth planning team of 25 experts across seven European countries. As a result, wealth planning clients have doubled in number, while new client assets have tripled. Cross-border cases have also increased by 500%.

“International complexity is clearly underestimated,” says Yvan Vaillant, head of wealth planning solutions group for Edmond de Rothschild. Generally, wealth planners tend to have too local a perspective and lack depth of expertise, he says. In addition, purely civil matters are often forgotten.

With the pandemic making individuals painfully more aware of the risk of premature death or disability, the team was proactive in giving clients information on the different wealth transfer legal tools available in Europe, which was a success, says Mr Vaillant.

The bank also shared videos on various topics, such as different business transfer procedures and tax regimes for gifts and inheritance across Europe. It also organised a client webinar on international wealth transfer.

While the number of digital tools has increased, physical meetings remain “more impactful”, believes Mr Vaillant. Either way, what matters for wealth planners is to keep the “emotional path” open, allowing them to bring up such delicate topics at the right time, to listen to clients and understand their personal situation.

Wealth planners complement advisors at client meetings and ensure subjects are discussed effectively. They have a long-term, holistic view of the client and build a personalised “action plan” or road map, which is also shared with clients’ children.

The bank is developing a “disruptive approach” around succession planning, values and legacy. For example, it has employed theatre actors to take on the role of customers, to trigger a reaction and tackle taboos on these topics.

Best private banking boutique in Europe 

Winner: Reyl & Cie

Geneva-based wealth manager Reyl & Cie is typically used by Swiss customers alongside some much larger names. “Many of our clients use us for several services from across our five business lines, illustrating the depth of our relationships and the trust we have built with them,” says Francois Reyl, the firm’s CEO. “This is because we are entrepreneurs ourselves and acutely understand the needs and priorities of our entrepreneurial client base.”

The boutique’s growing reputation both in Geneva and beyond shows that for wealthy investors it is no longer necessary to choose a mega-size private bank ahead of a smaller, more client-focused firm.

Reyl & Cie, managing close to $17bn in client assets, claims to offer a full range of services comparable to larger peers, but within a boutique structure enabling rapid response to clients’ evolving needs. “This dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit can sometimes be harder to foster within a larger business,” says Mr Reyl.

How long he will be able to maintain this unique culture in his firm is, however, a moot point, bearing in mind the boutique is going through a link-up in Switzerland with Italian asset manager Fideuram.

“The strategic partnership with Fideuram does of course mark a new chapter in Reyl’s corporate history, as it will create a sizeable group with a presence across the EU, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Far East,” says Mr Reyl. “Together, we have an opportunity to build a leading new international private banking player, but what is most important is that we have each found a partner with an acute understanding of the entrepreneurial world.”

The strength of long-term relationships was particularly important during recent lockdowns, necessitated by Covid-19, he says, with conversations about environmental, social and governance investing particularly capturing clients’ imaginations. Demand for dual goals of positive financial returns and positive societal impact led to the group’s launch of impact specialist Asteria Investment Managers in 2019, followed by the acquisition of Obviam in 2020.

Best private banking boutique in the US       

Winner: Boston Private, an SVB company

Boston Private credits its above industry average levels of customer satisfaction to its solutions-focused and advice-driven philosophy.

“Our holistic, empathetic approach to client relationships meant that we knew how to support our clients through the emotional distress of the past 18 months,” says John Longley, head of private bank, wealth, trust and wine at Boston Private. Wealth, he adds, means many things, including more time with family, good health and creating a legacy. “A good wealth advisor will help clients reach their financial goals, but a great wealth advisor will create solutions that help clients achieve their dreams.”

Existing technology infrastructure allowed the bank to move quickly and not to get “caught flat-footed” by lockdowns. Moreover, the bank rolled out a new platform last year, enabling clients to access a real-time view of their full financial picture, from their phone, tablet or computer. In addition, joining the nCino Bank Operating System enabled private bankers to increase e-fficiency and streamline client onboarding.

Another major achievement “was the beginning phases of Boston Private’s integration” with SVB Financial Group, the parent of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). Indeed, the acquisition of Boston Private by SVB, just recently completed, creates much needed scale, resulting in combined private bank and wealth management assets under management of around $20bn.

 “Silicon Valley and the innovation economy have been one of the biggest sources of wealth creation this country has ever seen and we’re excited to serve one of the most dynamic client segments in the world,” says Mr Longley, predicting enhancements to Boston Private’s digital services and reach.

As well as the exponential growth of wealth creation within the innovation economy, the biggest growth driver for Boston Private in the coming years lies in the offering of “easier ways” for family office clients to receive “targeted, value-add services for their lending and banking needs, as well as specialised capital markets solutions”.

Best performing private bank in CEE  

Winner: Komerční banka

Komerční banka, parent company of KB Group and part of Société Générale (SG) Group, emerged as the best-performing bank in central and eastern Europe (CEE) from the key performance indicator quantitative analysis carried out by PWM across all CEE institutions that entered this year’s awards.

The bank’s solid financial performance was the outcome of several initiatives. Its enhanced discretionary portfolio management offering proved “very effective” against the pandemic-induced market volatility, while a new strategy and dedicated team for ultra-wealthy clients and family offices, named KB Private Wealth Management, strengthened the bank’s market share in this fast-growing segment, leading to a 35% penetration rate.

The new team is designated to provide “exceptional, personalised and comprehensive services offering access to all local and global services of KB/SG groups in a one-stop shop,” explains Petr Slaby, director of KB Private Banking.

The bank accelerated its digitalisation journey and today more than 80% of all client investment transactions are processed digitally.

The launch of real estate and private equity club deals has given access to investment opportunities not otherwise available to most of the bank’s clients, who tend to be non-institutional investors. Last year, Komerční banka also acquired a stake in fintech start-up, Upvest. The real estate crowdfunding platform provides clients with the opportunity to provide mezzanine financing.

A key target for the private bank is to further enhance its environmental, social and governance (ESG) and impact investing offering.  “We want to be recognised by clients and market as the bank that contributes significantly to personal and business growth focusing on responsible banking and innovative financial solutions, and fully ESG and [socially responsible investing] compliant,” says Mr Slaby.

Best leadership during the pandemic

Winner: Kleinwort Hambros

While few banks have really distinguished themselves through their leadership during the pandemic, the boutique UK firm Kleinwort Hambros, managing close to $15bn, has come under the spotlight both due to its initiatives and the humility of its leadership.

Any projects which had previously been delayed or mired in long-term reviews and committees were immediately unblocked.

“The urgency and demands of the pandemic allowed leaders to respond with more innovation and pace than ever before, and we were able to take important strides forward across a range of strategic goals in this instance,” says Mouhammed Choukeir, CEO of Kleinwort Hambros.

Additionally, he says, the prevailing environment presented opportunities for banks to go “above and beyond” their normal duties to employees, giving them extra support and allowing flexibility. All of this has contributed to the bank’s performance.

One of the key stories communicated during the lockdowns has been a series of thematic calls from the chief investment officer (CIO). “Ultimately, CIOs have to deliver investment performance over time,” says Mr Choukeir. “At Kleinwort Hambros, we believe the best way to achieve that is to have a first-rate investment decision-making framework,” in this case deploying risk management to guide allocations.

While external observers have questioned the bank’s relationship with its French parent, Société Générale (SG) and its brand and direction, Mr Choukeir believes Kleinwort Hambros’s operation benefits from full independence when it comes to decision-making, yet reaping the benefits of technology investments from the parent group. “Kleinwort Hambros is a key pillar of the SG Private Banking network, and SG continues to invest in our business and the digitalisation of our platform,” he says. “We are part of an ambitious transformation with the full support of our shareholders”



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