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WEALTH

Private bankers count the cost of less face time

Private banking is a business based on personal relationships and trust – and it’s hard to truly connect with someone on Zoom. So long as the pandemic persists, this presents a substantial challenge to wealth managers, who can only grow their businesses by bonding with wealthy clients and winning new mandates.

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Private banking is an intensely personal experience. There’s a symbiosis at work that goes beyond the financial world’s normal tenets.

A wealthy family might stay loyal to the same provider for generations. Longevity is the foundation stone upon which Switzerland’s wealth management industry is built, but it also thrives on change.

Income has to grow, and that means getting new business through the door. A Hong Kong banker at a global lender says he expects his relationship managers (RMs) “to bring in at least two new super-wealthy clients each year”.

“A lot of the activity happens in the first two years,” he adds. “That’s where we make our money. Without that new blood, the private bank doesn’t grow.”

This raises questions. If, as is the case in a pandemic year, you can’t jump on a flight to see a prospective client, or even glad-hand them in a nice restaurant, how can you generate additional fees or grow your lending book?

They couldn’t envisage moving over a portion of their business when we hadn’t met face to face
Sarah Courtney Dockett, Citi Private Bank UK
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Those of means like to size a person up before giving them assets to manage.