Global private banking debate: PB embraces the modern world

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By:
Elliot Wilson
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Private banks across the world are changing fast, placing greater emphasis than ever on a host of key factors. The best wealth managers are busy boosting inclusivity, emphasising technology and security, and ensuring they are on-point when it comes to meeting compliance needs.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

• New rules such as the EU’s Mifid II regulations are injecting greater transparency, enabling private banking customers to view risks, fees and costs attached to financial instruments

• HNWs in China are becoming judicious as the country develops, growth slows and financial education rises, embracing long-term reward over short-term risk. Philanthropy is on the rise in China, with parents keen to get children involved in good causes

• Clients all the way down the wealth pyramid demand sophisticated and increasingly personal advice and service from relationship managers. Security is increasingly paramount in an industry where HNWs want to keep their financial matters private

• Millennials put helping society and the environment ahead of wealth generation. That philanthropy is driving demand for SRI, ‘green’ and impact investing

• The best talent has to be constantly challenged, to feel as if it is learning something, to know its actions have purpose. The best private banks know that

• Private banks are increasingly committed to diversity and inclusion, focusing on building a balance of nationalities, experiences, cultures, orientations and genders to drive profit and better serve the customer

Elliot Wilson, Euromoney What in your experience, has been the biggest recent change in wealth management and private banking?

Dennis Chen, China Merchants Bank (DC, CMB) There have been some great changes in the Chinese market in the last year. The biggest one is that regulators have joined the push for new wealth management rules, leading to much-needed reforms, the aim of which is to unify asset management regulation and to mitigate risks in the financial sector. The two main changes are first, that financial institutions cannot just promise to return capital when a product matures – they must also offer some level of compensation. And second, that you can only provide products on a mark-to-market basis. 

We see financial institutions jamming multiple products into one security, so that it resembles a very complicated and structured portfolio investment that appears not to have any inherent risk. Of course, that is not true. Inside these products there is a high level of hidden risk. So, these reforms taking place in China are both much needed and well planned.  

Euromoney Andreea, how much change do you see, from your place at the heart of a financial institution that has managed money for global families for over a hundred years?

Andreea Grob, Credit Suisse (AGR, CS) Credit Suisse was founded in 1856 by Alfred Escher, one of Switzerland’s most entrepreneurial minds, to finance the Swiss railroad network. The bank has since been serving global families, entrepreneurs and institutions for more than 150 years. From that viewpoint, nothing has changed. We continue to support our clients and accompany them through their private and corporate life. In other ways, however, the industry is changing. 

One example is through the new EU’s Mifid [Markets in Financial Instruments Directive] II rules. This has developed transparency on risks, fees and costs attached to financial instruments. 

The broader theme we have seen since 2018 is what we call an extended cycle, in other words continued global economic growth and contained inflation, despite a number of risks. This has triggered volatility, which has created concerns among our clients, who have adopted a more conservative approach to risk. Our conversations now focus on asset protection as investors ask us to advise them on hedging solutions to reduce their risk exposure to equities, interest rates and currencies while ensuring a smooth return on investment. 

Above all, client requirements are changing. Our clients are no longer passive investors, but always more connected and globally active. These clients require agile solutions and a bank that is not only offering them wealth preservation, but also providing financing for their ventures and access to the relevant peer network. 

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Euromoney Do you feel the same is true in China, where growth rates are high but steadily declining, yet where clients expect returns to be high?

Mei Yufang, China Construction Bank (MY, CCB) More than 50% of our clients are over 50 years of age, meaning they were born between 1962 and 1972. This group is the richest age band in China, and as they age, they have become more conservative, taking a longer view of wealth management. This marks a very significant change in Chinese wealth management. Many of our clients also look at the equity market and see problems. The Shanghai Stock Exchange fell 25% in value in 2018. Whereas in the past, some clients might have asked us to put all their money to work in equities, or in other riskier products, in order to chase higher returns without having much concern about risk, now they are more judicious. They look harder at macro data, ask questions about complex hedging products, and understand that there are correlations between risk and rate of return. They demand data before making a decision, and they ask for asset allocations with a more rational expected rate of return. For me, the greatest changes in China are a) rising financial education, and b) an acceptance that risk is not finite.   

Alexandre Gartner, Bradesco Europa (AGA, BE) Our lingering ultra-low interest-rate environment continues to challenge not just us but also our clients, as it affects their investment risk appetite. Having gone through more than 10 years of a sustained bull market, clients have tended to take on a lot of extra risk. 

In the past few months, it has become clear that some do not understand all the risks they are taking, and are not prepared for the level of volatility that is waiting for us as the bull market draws to an end. There is going to be a lot of rebuilding of portfolios, and reassessing of risk appetites, as we discuss with clients how far they are willing to go. 

Another key change for private banking practitioners is the need to continue to adapt to and adopt new forms of digital communication. Clients expect service to be high quality, but also increasingly speedy and customised to their needs. That provides a considerable challenge to banks, as they wrap their heads around artificial intelligence and new sophisticated forms of digital communication, and work out how to use technology to make the relationship with the client increasingly sophisticated and personal. It’s easier to do that for the relatively small universe of wealthier clients, but clients all the way down the pyramid are demanding that kind of relationship and service, and that is a challenge. 

Euromoney Russia’s economy continues to recover slowly. But within the private banking space, how has Sberbank’s client base changed in terms of what your clients demand of you?

Igor Prokhaev, Sberbank Private Banking (IP, SPB) Our world is changing – and it is changing very fast. I agree with Andreea regarding the key point she makes about shifting regulation. Mifid II is not only complex but also a genuine challenge for private bankers and for our compliance team. New rules are appearing in most markets, including China, where the industry is more tightly regulated. In Russia, the third iteration of the Capital Amnesty Law is changing how our clients view wealth management.

Another challenge is the increasingly mobility of wealth in a country which, until recently, had very tight controls on cross-border capital flows. The final big trend we face is technology. If you come to our headquarters in Moscow, you won’t need to use a physical form of ID to get in. There is a biometrical data system that automatically opens the door, just by reading your face and gait, and hearing your voice. That technology is seeping into the banking sector, where a mobile phone need only ‘read’ your voice to complete a transaction. Sometimes the speed of change can be scary, but it is up to us to keep up-to-date with new forms of technology, to ensure that we remain the number-one private bank in Russia. 

Euromoney Mei, how does China Construction Bank, manage expectations? 

MY, CCB Many of our clients are getting older, so we need to cater to them, helping them to secure their financial legacy. Perhaps the biggest change we have seen in recent years is an increasing focus on brand and asset allocation. When we serve clients, they are far more aware of the value of a financial brand like China Construction Bank. 

Our aim is to communicate with clients while educating and advising them about new products, new risks, and new services. As Andreea said, when you live longer, as is clearly the case in China, you need to think about how you can make good long-term use of your assets – and around three-quarters of our customers are now focused heavily on wealth preservation. 

One of our key aims from the start has been to target the right partners around the world and to use those partnerships to piece together our private-banking service offering. 

Finally, we are constantly aware of the onus that many of our clients place on social responsibility.

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DC, CMB China’s economy is strong and growing, but growth rates are slowing, and this trend will continue, gently but steadily, even while we factor in other issues like the ongoing trade war. The balance of the economy is tipping, as China ceases to be an export-oriented country, and starts to rely far more heavily on internal demand. A billion-plus population needs consumption and investment, so a lot of the growth in the economy and in private banking, is going to be driven by Asia’s largest economy. 

We feel that the long-term transformation of our financial markets is a net-positive, which will lead to a better understanding in China of the value of assets, and of how to better allocate assets in general. Let’s take the example of debt. 

In, say, the United States, portfolios are scattered across the spectrum of fixed income, while in China, portfolios, until recently in some cases, barely give it a thought. But that is changing. When our relationship managers talk to high net-worth clients, we emphasize the value of asset allocation, and we help them to build assets that straddle multiple asset classes and sensibly manage risk and reward. But we always ensure that what we offer clients matches their individual risk appetite. 

And I agree with my friend at China Construction Bank, when he notes that the average age of our clients in mainland China is getting older, creating a challenge in terms of how we manage their wealth and mitigate risk. We are rolling out new or augmented services in areas like family offices and trusts: those services are increasingly in demand among HNW clients. And we work hard to ensure that when the handover of trillions of dollars of wealth to a second generation of family members takes place in China, during the 2020s, we are perfectly placed. 

Euromoney No debate of this type these days is complete without talking about new forms of digital communication and technology, from AI to virtual reality, and how they are affecting the industry. What are you currently focusing on and investing in?

AGA, BE When you look at technology, security is paramount. For HNW clients, security is very high on the priority scale. They want to keep their financial matters private. On top of security, technology also improves the client experience and our capacity to serve clients – and every client has a different set of needs and priorities. 

Yes, the private banking client base is ageing, and I think that is true for all of us around this table. But we also have very young customers who have made a lot of money, particularly in the technology world. Their needs, demands and expectations are completely different from other clients, so we need a wide range of products, strategies and services, on top of the need for bankers and relationship managers with a wide set of abilities and skills. 

We’ve also talked here about the burden of rising regulations. Well, technology can help us to manage how we understand regulations and ensure we and our clients comply with the rules.

IP, SPB We have a subsidiary within Sberbank which ensures that all our platforms are digitally interconnected and interoperable. It’s very high-tech and very clever. We are one of the largest companies in Russia, with more than 10,000 employees, and we have a big team working on how to improve digital banking service and security. 

Technology is a double-sided story for us. It makes life easier for our customers, who can simply log in, wherever they are, to visualise and adapt and adjust their portfolio, and access our latest research. It also allows our bankers to spend more time with clients, enabling us to understand them better, speak to them directly, and spend more time with them. Technology is a great teacher – it helps us to see where we are serving the client well, and how we can do it better. 

It also allows us to adapt to the future: one in which the bulk of our HNW clients will be older, where younger clients will want an increasingly online relationship with us, where two thirds of the population of the world will live in cities, and where natural resources and the climate will be under increasing stress. 

These offer challenges, yes, but technology ensures that they offer opportunities as well. 

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AGR, CS The financial sector is already undergoing transformative change. But unlike large technology companies, financial providers have to move slower and in line with regulations. 

At Credit Suisse, we can observe first-hand how intelligent computing has improved operational efficiency. Another key area is the reduction of risk and technology-supported compliance functions. 

Key areas of focus for Credit Suisse investments are digital security and new forms of technology and innovation that allow us to spend more time interacting directly with the client. 

We are not only investing in group-wide initiatives, such as the improved digital banking platform, but are also launching many decentralised initiatives within the business units, including AI, virtual reality, client interfaces, compliance and monitoring systems, and market intelligence. 

Credit Suisse was one of the first movers among Swiss banks in the area of payment solutions. For example, we expanded the bank’s range of mobile payment methods for retail clients with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay. 

DC, CMB Because of China’s size and vast population, mobile connectivity is very widespread. Our bank has long been a trailblazer in digital and mobile connectivity. Our customers can see their portfolios live and in real-time on their mobile phone, and use our application interfaces to, say, buy film tickets, order a meal, or book a table at a restaurant. It’s all interoperable. 

The next step will be to improve our communication with the client. We’ll provide them with tailor-made reports and offer video-conferencing and streaming services, as the client may not be in China. They might be in London, or New York, and we will use different electronic means to communicate with them, wherever they are. 

Another key area of focus is philanthropy. More of our clients are focusing on impact investing and social responsibility, often channelled through their family offices and foundations.

Philanthropy is on the rise for two reasons. First, because the first generation of the wealthy in China want to give something back to society. And second, because they want their children to get involved with good causes. Over the next decade, we will see more mainland HNWs get involved in philanthropic causes. In the course of doing good work, they need to choose the right charities and the right projects, and we can help, directing clients toward good causes and working with them every step of the way.  

MY, CCB China Construction Bank has always put a high level of value on investing in new applications and technologies, and using them to better understand our clients’ needs. 

New forms of digital communication and technology, from AI to virtual reality, help us to communicate with customers more efficiently and effectively, enabling us to strengthen our relationships with clients, and build a high level of mutual trust. 

In 2018, we launched our brand new e-banking service, designed exclusively for our private banking clientele, with a customised interface design, intelligent Q&A service, and dedicated customer-facing service. It enables customers to interact online and offline with financial advisers, and guarantees them a highly professional and personalised service experience. 

Last but not least, our new generation system has strengthened China Construction Bank’s core capabilities, transforming the way we deliver world-class customer service.

Euromoney Do people, when they reach a certain level of net worth, want to give something back? And is it a concern that while many HNWs are focused on sustainability, there simply aren’t enough green assets, including loans and bonds, to invest in.  

AGR, CS As individuals become wealthier, they want to give back, though the relationship isn’t strictly linear. Across all levels of wealth, we are seeing an increased desire to generate a positive social and environmental impact through investment portfolios. Much of this is driven by legacy desires, especially in the case of millennials. 

When recently asked by Credit Suisse, a majority of millennials put creating a positive impact in society as their key priority, ahead of wealth or recognition. This desire to give back, not just to families but to the wider community, to countries and to the environment, is helping to drive demand for such investments. 

Regardless of their origin, wealthy individuals feel responsible, and want to have an impact beyond growing their own company and wealth. 

When it comes to sustainable investments, Europe is at the forefront of this process. Roughly half of all assets under professional management in Europe are channelled into sustainable products, and Credit Suisse has a rich history in this field, with over 15 years of experience in impact investing, with over $7 billion in assets under administration in this field. 

Sustainable investing is now a $31 trillion market, more than doubling in size over the past four years. At Credit Suisse, we are continually enhancing our offering to meet this rising demand and to be able to offer our clients a wide range of products across asset class, liquidity profile and thematic. For instance, we have opportunities to invest sustainably in areas such as green bonds, affordable housing, clean technology, microfinance, sustainable agriculture and responsible consumption. 

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Euromoney Financial institutions and corporates are coming up with new ways to retain their best talent. What is your approach?  

AGA, BE Bradesco has just revamped its European operations. Over the course of the second half of 2018, we rebuilt our presence in Luxembourg, and I moved there in March this year. We now have a 20-strong team at our European private banking arm, which was pretty much built from scratch. 

There are three things here that are paramount. 

Firstly, the main objective is to hire and retain the best possible talent. This is a people business, and you need to have the right resources in place or else this business is not going to fly. We are looking for people who have the right sense and level of engagement. We don’t want people who just want to be there for a few hours a day. They need to be part of the business, to feel the blood pumping through their veins. We want employees with a sense of purpose. What do they want to achieve with us? Will they engage with what we are building? What is their contribution to wider projects? 

Secondly, we want people who share our values and our culture, who have a relationship with the bank, and the way we think and operate. 

Finally, our European division is relatively young compared with our presence in Brazil, and that provides many opportunities for employees to contribute. We want our staff to feel empowered, to feel responsible for their thoughts and actions, to be willing to innovate. At the end of the day, it’s the people who get up feeling motivated and with a sense of purpose who will deliver. 

IP, SPB Wherever you work, be it a bank or a corporate, your best talent needs to be constantly challenged, to feel as if it is learning something, to know its actions have purpose. At Sberbank, where we are three or four times the size of our nearest competitor, we have our own in-house university. All our employees can go there and study everything from finance to industrial relations to philosophy. 

The purpose – because private banking remains such a new and niche service in Russia – is to build talent slowly, with a core group of bankers who will be with us for a long time. This group of private bankers currently breaking through at Sberbank, aged between 20 and 35, is incredibly talented, multi-resourced, financially and diplomatically sophisticated, and very often with an education that has taken them around the world.  

AGR, CS This is a vital part of our job as a financial institution. Talent management has also remained an essential focus during the bank’s recent restructuring. We need good and motivated people across the bank, from client coverage to product areas, to risk management and compliance. 

I have worked in private banking for over two decades, and we always aim to find the right people to engage with our clients. It comes down to identifying the right people and then providing further training and education. That mean recruiters thoroughly screening the wider market to see where the talent is, and making sure they know Credit Suisse. 

We visit universities, introduce ourselves to MBA graduates, and describe our bank’s strategy, culture, organization and career opportunities. As a progressive employer, you need to offer flexible work models – a part-time and flexible workplace, family support and so on. With offices in multiple countries, Credit Suisse offers mobility across jurisdictions. We actively support individual career ambitions, including personal development through internal and external training. 

These factors tend to attract talented and motivated young people, who aspire to grow within our institution. We are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion – I personally chair our international wealth management division’s diversity and inclusion board. We believe in complementary skills and a balance of nationalities, experiences, cultures, orientations and genders. 

A relationship manager may have many years of experience and be highly skilled, but may not be the right person to approach someone of a different age, gender or nationality. The greater our level of diversity as a financial institution, the deeper our well of talent, the greater our chance is of understanding and appropriately responding to every need of every client. 

Euromoney How do you go about apportioning the right relationship manager to a specific client Andreea? 

AGR, CS We cover all our clients as an integrated team with experts from different areas. Our relationship managers orchestrate coverage, but they are supported by peers in their own team and by specialists and advisers in different units and locations. Our long-term inclusive and cooperative cross-bank work ethic feeds into a culture of collaboration and accountability at all levels of the bank. 

In a firm with around 45,000 people, you will have a capable representative to meet the client anytime and anywhere, be it in Mexico City or London or Singapore. 

Euromoney Part of China’s extraordinary growth story is the constant job-hopping that makes it so difficult to retain talent. How do you go about keeping your best relationship managers on-board, whether in mainland China, or in markets around the world?

DC, CMB We are probably the biggest and the best private banking institution in China. If our relationship managers leave and join another outfit, they might get paid more. But we reliably manage to retain our most talented individuals, and our retention rate is very high. Take my example: I have been part of China Merchants Bank’s wealth management team for over 12 years, and an employee of the bank for more than two decades. 

Our talent pool is deep and relatively stable. The key is to work hard and consistently, to ensure we have the right organisational structure, and to hone individual strengths and talents. Our team members know they are appreciated and that they have the chance to be a leader in a fast-paced industry. That empowers them and gives them the impetus to stay. 

Each of our employees is an individual. They have their own values, and they appreciate being recognised and rewarded for their achievements. Achievement is more important than salary in many ways. This thinking is paramount when we go about deciding whom we hire and how we go about honing their talents. 

MY, CCB In a fast-growing market, the challenge of how we go about hiring and retaining our best talent is a significant one. We don’t always succeed – you can’t always stop a relationship manager from leaving if it means them doubling or tripling their pay. This is a challenge, and we deal with a very high level of turnover. 

There are ways we tackle this problem. 

First, we build our value propositions and culture. Second, we work hard to ensure the right relationship manager is matched with the right client – and that means knowing our team and how to apportion their talents. 

Four years ago, a colleague wanted to go and work for a non-financial company. I encouraged him to meet his ambitions with us, and I succeeded in convincing him to stay. Recently, we bumped into each other, and he thanked me for convincing him not to leave, as he would have joined a company that ran into trouble. As Warren Buffett famously said, only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked. 

Unlike Credit Suisse, we are not yet a global institution, but if we stick to our guns and do what is right for us and for our colleagues, we can achieve anything. 

In this business, your leaders need to have 15 to 20 years of experience managing assets, operating in multiple markets, and experiencing different economic and credit cycles. We are still building up that experience, but we are definitely moving in the right direction as a financial institution, and that helps us to see things more clearly, and to engage better and more actively and confidently with the client. 

We place our best relationship managers in complex situations, training them up at home and abroad, giving them the opportunity to empower and challenge themselves, in order to advance their career. That helps us not just to retain our most talented managers, but also to serve the client better. 

Euromoney In an era of augmented compliance and regulation, in every jurisdiction, how do you go about deciding which markets matter to you, and which do not?

AGR, CS Our global hub is in Switzerland, but we have a physical presence in more than 50 countries globally. While we strive for a balance between emerging and developed markets, we are constantly reviewing our global footprint. 

Compliance growth is key to us and we align our local presence with respective regulatory requirements. Let’s take the example of Mexico. Besides the existing domestic booking centre and our strong investment banking presence, we opened an advisory office there in 2017, giving us the ability to build our local client base and build portfolios in strict compliance with local rules. 

At the same time, we can use our presence in that market to cross-fertilise what we do in other locations. If we have a Mexican client who wants to enhance their exposure to Asia, we reach out to our relationship managers in Singapore and ask them to provide a model portfolio for Asian bonds, which we replicate in Mexico. 

That allows us to bring local, regional and global expertise to a client in a given market. This has considerable value, especially in a global world where people want diversification and yield pick-up across developed markets and emerging markets that offer higher rates of return. 

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AGA, BE The first challenge any bank in Brazil faces is how to approach clients to tell them why they should keep more of their wealth offshore. 

If you go back five or 10 years, to an era of very high onshore interest rates, the prospective rates of return on offer abroad looked very small. But with low rates in Brazil, many of them are starting to look at Europe, even with its very low and even negative interest rates, and are starting to ask: ‘Why not put my money to work there?’ 

A balanced international portfolio can now deliver expected returns that are comparable to those in the local market. 

Our typical client will have a business in Brazil and considerable real state and investment assets, so they will want to move their money to a different jurisdiction and be exposed to different risk factors that will counterbalance their portfolios. 

Nowadays investing offshore represents an opportunity to diversify without compromising returns – and that should continue to drive our business. Once that decision is made, the ‘jurisdiction discussion’ starts. 

We have built a regional European platform in Luxembourg, and recently, we announced the purchase of a bank in Florida, BAC Florida, which is still awaiting regulatory approval. That will allow us to serve clients through both Luxembourg and Florida. 

I foresee more of our larger clients opting to be served from Europe, taking advantage of the investor-friendly security and transparency. Smaller ones may gravitate toward the US, where they may vacation, or have a second home and have day-to-day banking needs. 

Euromoney What is the view from China? Your clients are increasingly global, and their assets, and indeed the family itself, are increasingly global. How can you best serve them?

DC, CMB In the overseas market, we do not have the same experience of, say, a Credit Suisse, but our great advantage is that we know our Chinese clients well and understand their cultural needs. We know what they want and why they want it better than any foreign bank can. 

Our strategy is to follow our clients’ money and hire people to provide the best possible service wherever they go. If they invest in London, we set up in London. The same rings true for New York, Singapore, or wherever. 

The client might have a different level of resources put to work in different countries, and the regulations and investment methods in each market are likely to differ. That is why we have carefully pieced together a masterplan that works everywhere. 

Regulations offer a complex challenge. What is permitted in one country may not be allowed elsewhere; or if it is, you may need to change your tools. 

So we have to localise, bringing in, say, cross-border legal and accounting support and services.

Chinese clients probably have different nationalities among family members, which might require us to structure an investment based on different legal and tax systems, particularly when we are engaged in wealth management and legacy planning. These all have to be taken into consideration with a global view, which requires us to have global expertise. 

So, while we usually hire Chinese citizens, they are likely to have local knowledge in each market, and will be able to understand our clients due to a shared understanding of both the local culture and Chinese culture.  

MY, CCB The most important factor for us is that we have a bottom line, because in different areas and regions, there are different regulations at work, not only on the client side but also across the financial spectrum. Compliance rules that cover financial institutions are a major challenge. 

When we follow our clients overseas, we need to consider carefully which portion of a portfolio can be allocated there. With some clients, when they join us, we can see that from a legal and taxation point of view, a lot of the old structures that exist in their portfolio no longer work. At that point, we ask ourselves how and if we can work with the client, after which we determine what services we can offer them. 

If we cannot serve them and meet their needs, within the context of existing regulations, we just have to say no to them. If we do decide to work with them, of course we allocate them our best domestic and overseas resources, and deliver a comprehensive investment plan, while working hard to help them adjust their portfolio and adapt its structure to comply with the rules.  

IP, SPB It is impossible to be present in every market, and impossible to give advice or qualified advice in markets that are very far away from you. But if you accept the theory of open architecture, you can quite easily access most markets and choose between the best asset managers in the world. 

At Sberbank, we deliver services we believe we are the best at. For example, we think that return and risk in banking is at its best in Sberbank. We are the largest research producer in Russia, and quite a few institutions buy our research. But our asset management team is globally competitive, too. We can sell our products and expertise to pretty much any market, be it Mexico or China. My clients are buying consumer equities in China and small caps in India through mutual funds and Ucits [Undertakings for the Collective Investment in Transferable Securities]. So all the world really is a stage on which all the instruments we need are carefully laid out.

Euromoney Are women being well served by the private banking industry? Are private banks working to ensure greater diversity and inclusivity at home, and to deliver best-in-class service to female HNWs and UNHWs?

AGR, CS The industry is still assembling a complete picture of the investment preferences of women globally and how they differ from those of male investors. A European Commission study from 2010/11, covering 15 eurozone countries, found that women hold more non-financial assets and hold a smaller fraction of their financial assets in risky formats, but have similar debt ratios than men. 

Trillions of dollars of wealth will be transferred over the next decade to spouses and next-generation family members. Banks need to step up and listen, as we are set to witness one of the biggest wealth transfers in history, from the baby boomers to their offspring. Fifteen years ago, we launched our ‘Next Generation’ programme, recognising this cohort’s critical importance, listening to their concerns and aspirations. 

We provide them with a platform not only to gain knowledge in financial investments, but also network with peers worldwide. In the last year alone we also launched a ‘Global Next Generation and Families’ department dedicated to this generation, while co-authoring a report with the next generation.

AGA, BE Of the 20 people in my team, 11 are women and nine are men, and we are hiring one more person, a woman, who should be starting in a month. Having a diverse workforce helps us engage with clients in many different ways. 

We do a lot of work, bringing the next generation into the bank and educating them about what we do, so they understand us and why their parents or grandparents approached us in the first place for help with managing their money. As soon as they are old enough, and their parents are comfortable with them understanding how much wealth the family has, we begin to help them understand how to perpetuate that wealth in line with the principles of the family. 

The more education sessions we run, the more women of all ages come to the table. Maybe it won’t be their responsibility to manage the wealth of the family, but they need and want to be engaged. And having a woman serving clients at the bank is important because they are more likely to be able to establish a strong working relationship with a mother – and mothers and fathers have different needs and outlooks. 

We recently held a meeting in Brazil, where female entrepreneurs shared their experiences with other women. More than 2,000 women were present, including a group of leading female CEOs.

So it is something that is pretty high on our agenda.

IP, SPB We care deeply about the wives of our clients and we have established a women’s club, which attracts a lot of very interesting speakers. It helps women who are successful in one field to meet successful women in other fields, and that opens up new areas of valuable discussion, be it in education, sustainability or philanthropy. 

We also arrange for successful artists to visit us in Moscow. Sberbank hosted a fantastic exhibition of Edvard Munch, and these kinds of events are well attended, and a great opportunity to meet like-minded and different-minded people, and make connections you usually do not make in daily life. 

Euromoney In China, how do you approach the twin issues of ensuring that you are more gender diverse as an institution and reaching out to serve new generations of female HNWs and UNHWs?

DC, CMB The majority of our clients today are female, both in mainland China and overseas. In Chinese culture we have a saying that women hold up half the sky. It’s also the case in wealth management, where women in particular make a lot of the financial decisions for a family.

Among our high-net-worth clients, probably the majority of clients who come to talk to us are female, and many of them are not only head of the household, but also run the family business. The person who is responsible for the family pays more attention to legacy and to the needs of the next generation. 

They understand full well that ‘legacy’ does not just mean how much wealth you have, but also means imparting the abilities and skills the next generation needs to be capable of managing that wealth. 

A great amount of attention is paid by us to the process of cultivating the next generation, and we adapt our services to their needs. For example, we often note that women pay more attention to the entire family’s wealth portfolio.

MY, CCB We focus on recognising which members of the family have the greatest responsibility, and adapting our services to suit their needs. 

For two decades, gender equality has been at the heart of everything we do. We employ a large number of female relationship managers, and a lot of our graduates are women who went to highly ranked universities. 

Women often have better personal abilities and qualities, are better educated, and have better personal skills. 

More wealth is being handed to female family members than ever before. And that is a clear break from history in China, where culture, education and family tradition is greatly cherished. 

Some of our clients want to pass on wealth, while others want to pass on education and family values and culture. Clients of around 60 years of age will typically choose a suitable family member to entrust with the responsibility of overseeing family wealth. This person might be a son or daughter, or someone who could shoulder a family’s inheritance and take responsibility.

In our view, both women and men have the same opportunities. 


Private banking debate participants

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Igor Prokhaev (IP) is vice-president and head of group at Sberbank Private Banking. He has been at Russia’s largest universal bank since 1999, having started his career at Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank, where he headed up the lender’s client asset management division.



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Mei Yufang (MY) is deputy general manager, wealth management and private banking, at China Construction Bank. Mei has worked for CCB for nearly 30 years, moving from retail banking in 2005 to focus on wealth structures, family trust, investment research and strategy, and customer relationship management.



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Dennis Chen (DC) is head of investment consulting in China Merchants Bank’s private banking division. His 23-year banking career spans extensive managerial experience in investment consulting, portfolio management, discretionary account management and family offices.



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Andreea Grob (AGR) is a member of the management committee of Credit Suisse’s international wealth management division. She leads the coverage of select private individuals and their investment entities and corporates in Europe and Latin America, and has over 20 years of private banking experience in the EMEA region.



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Alexandre Gartner (AGA) is head of private banking at Bradesco Europa, based in Luxembourg. He worked at Bradesco Private Bank in Brazil as chief investment officer and commercial head for high and ultra-high net-worth clients. His career has included spells at HSBC, ABN Amro, Santander and Banco Bozano, Simonsen.




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