Marion Owczarczak-Fogli, managing director of wealth manager Alpian, talks about the pandemic’s effect on private banking relationships and the growing popularity of impact investing.

Marion Owczarczak-Fogli

Marion Owczarczak-Fogli 

Q: During the uncertainty created by the pandemic, can any private banker convincingly reassure worried clients?

A: Covid-19 has flummoxed customers ranging from premier banking clients right through to the most affluent of high net worth individuals. Whoever the customer, advice and guidance when it comes to wealth management is vital. 

Adaptability to the ever-changing global economic landscape has never been more important. This has always been true of the role of a wealth manager, but that responsibility has been magnified by the current pandemic. At times of uncertainty and generally when it comes to managing wealth, you need to trust that you are getting the best guidance possible to help you both protect your wealth and look towards your future financial goals.

For wealth managers, digital options are replicating the face-to-face relationships clients have come to expect. Those in the mass affluent segment, with investable assets of between $100,000 and $1m, might not be used to the high-contact model traditionally associated with a private bank, but technology allows us to provide that tailored approach to this group.    

It is, therefore, important for clients to have access to the right advisers at the right time, accessible by telephone or video calls, with expertise that is tailored to the client’s specific situation and needs. For some, wealth may contract in the near term, but the advice and reassurance from experienced wealth managers will be vital as we look towards recovery, whether that is a quick rebound or more gradual growth.

Q: How has Covid-19 affected the relevance of digital services? 

A: We live in a world where technology enables innovators to provide premium quality services that are personal and accessible, and at a fair and transparent cost. The digitalisation of wealth management was already well underway before Covid-19, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated this shift in terms of the services provided and what clients need and expect. 

This is true across the banking sector in Europe, with recent McKinsey research showing that the preference for handling everyday transactions digitally is as high as between 60% and 85% across western Europe. For wealth managers this shift to digital is coupled with the client’s desire for a personalised, bespoke service. Utilising emerging technology such as next-generation machine learning will be key to creating the digital services which are both accessible and personalised.

Private banking as an industry has long relied on intimacy and face-to-face meeting with clients, and the sector will be tested by this increased need for digital services. However, the industry must be ready to adapt to the needs of the modern client. We are currently going through a period of transformation in the industry. While the current situation poses challenges, there is an opportunity to make digital interaction the new normal for private banking. To make that happen, we need to bring together advanced technology with the expertise and experience of human advisers. 

At Alpian, for example, we are creating a new banking segment for a new generation of wealth makers. They may be lawyers, doctors or affluent young professionals who have been long underserved by traditional providers. We know that they want a premium service, enabled fully by a modern digital interface combined with human expertise, and accessible at a fair cost. 

Agility and adaptability will be vital in responding to the needs of the client

Q: Will Covid-19 further change private banking? 

A: Private banking is going through a period in which innovation will be key to growth and success. This was true before the global health crisis but has now been amplified. Agility and adaptability will be vital in responding to the needs of the client, especially as we move into the post-pandemic world.

Regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, we know that private banking clients want the advice and guidance they are getting to be tailored to their needs, and are readily accessible at the moments most convenient for them. 

For the mass affluent segment which we’re targeting, we also expect different factors influencing investment choices. Research we conducted showed that 83% of the mass affluent population were interested in impact investing. The ability to invest in a range of environmental, social and governance and impact investment products will be key for clients moving forward. This interest will only be strengthened by the effects that the pandemic is having on the global economy. Clients will be looking for a commitment from their bank to social responsibility and creating a better world. Providing a service that is tailored to these needs will be vital to the future success of players, new and old, and will shape our industry in the future.



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