While Europe’s economies might be struggling, wealth is growing in the region – and that is good news for Europe’s private banks, say the co-heads. At the end of September, BNP Paribas Wealth Management reached €299 billion in assets under management thanks to strong domestic markets as well as double digit AUM growth in Asia.
“Wealth is growing even if GDP is not,” says Lecomte. "There were 15% more millionaires in the main countries of Europe the first half of 2014,” adding that the challenging economic environment calls for greater advice and more solutions.
That growth is coming from European entrepreneurs and business owners, and this is where BNP Paribas has been focusing its efforts. The bank has been training its relationship managers on how to serve this type of client.
“In addition to the certification programme we introduced over a year ago, our relationship managers now have specific training in understanding balance sheets, and how to understand the M&A process,” says Merlo. "They need to understand their clients’ companies."
Philanthropy has also been a focus. BNP Paribas has a dedicated philanthropy services business in Belgium, the US and Asia, and will launch in Italy this year. “Philanthropy is key to us and is becoming more important for clients” says Lecomte. "In Europe in particular, we have seen clients who want to give back."
For the year ahead, Merlo says larger players such as BNP Paribas should be successful and see revenues increase. “The low interest-rate environment is challenging, and costs in the form of regulation and investments in digital will weigh on some players," she says. "The smaller wealth managers will continue to sell and merge, while the larger players who have a presence in Europe, Asia and US – where the growth is – are becoming fewer, and therefore stronger."