Leadingplayers rise toCovidchallenge


PWM’s annual private banking awards sees those institutions which were already repositioning for a digital era able to adjust relatively quickly to a world dealing with coronavirus


rivate banks – struggling with amajor transition frompure wealth management to a new role encompassing

data gathering, analysis and manipulation – are seeing their gameplans significantly accelerated by the catalytic Covid-19 crisis. Both spurred on and challenged

by Chinese ‘big techs’, wealth firms leaving behind traditional high cost, oak-panelled boardroom business are already benefiting fromwidescale digitalisation during the pandemic. Nowbanks mustmove further

still to match the needs of ‘Next Generation’ clients, embracing the social revolution rocking theworld’s financial capitals. This is a defining moment for

private banks,whose relationship business of personal meetings has quickly transferred to a series of screen interactions.Wealth advisers say cultural changes they expected to play out over years were implemented in a matter of weeks.

INTENSIVEEXPERIENCE “Froma client relationship perspective this has been the most universally intensive experience,” saysPWMawards judge and co-founder of the Scorpio wealth management think-tank Seb Dovey. “Such moments will be

remembered. Clients will value the

contacts that have demonstrated empathy and offered clear information amid somuch uncertainty. For those that did this well, the relationship will endure for many years to come.” Our judges of the Global Private

BankingAwards for 2020,who worked through entries frommore than 100 banks, have highlighted howeven before Covid, private client relationships were migrating to on-screen and digital formats, complementing face to face contact. They have talked about “increased pressure” on banks to recognisewhat is valuable in the humaninteraction andwhat can be delivered without it. The mistakemany banksmake

is the assumption that by not delivering in person, the relationship will be valued less by the client. “It is not really about the person, it is about the information andhowit is accessed. That is the gamechanger,” asserts Mr Dovey.

AMERICANGENERATION This key repositioning for the digitalworld has been successfully managed by US banks in particular. The private banking arms of JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citi,Wells Fargo and Northern Trust have all scored well in theawards for 2020. Most of our 15 judges concur that this is no flash in the pan. Rather it is thesumof several years of behind- the-scenes strategicwork. The US players have long been gearing up their businesses to meet the demands of the 2020s. Asian players,many ofwhom

have not been hampered by a legacy analogue business, have also been pushing ahead and fast improving the customer experience. The efforts of the likes of ChinaMerchants Bank and Industrial Bank are being increasingly recognised. DBS in Singapore, another 2020

award winner, has long been highlighted by our judges for expertise in innovation, data and digitalisation. But along with the well-resourced Chinese banks, it is only beginning to break out of its immediate region. What has surprised our judging

panel is the caution of these Asian players compared to their European counterparts, most ofwhomhave not been shy to target far-flung markets. “Other small nation states with strong banking operations have managed to establish themselves multinationally,” says Mr Dovey. “There is no reasonwhy Singapore banks could not achieve this too.” There is a strong suggestion

fromsome that mediocre services fromWestern banks have failed to penetrate demanding Asian markets and that the region’s domestic banks are playing amuch longer game, consolidating locally before embarking on broader missions, knowing there is no hurry to achieve almost inevitable domination.

ASIANWEALTHENGINE “Asia will remain the key engine of wealth creation in this decade. However, it will also remain a difficult region to do business in,”warnsawards judge Amin Rajan, CEOof the Create-Research consultancy. As successful entrepreneurs in

theirownright, most Asian investors are perhaps more demanding and less trusting. They can be quick to compare the returns on their investments towhat they could earn by reinvesting wealth in their ownbusiness. “Their return benchmark is high

and its timeline short,” adds Mr Rajan. “Many wealth managers in theWest have struggled to deliver the needs of this hard-nosed group, with its zero tolerance for mediocrity.” Asian players have also been


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