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FEATURES


Allchangeas CaixaBank adapts to thenewnormal


BIG INTERVIEW WRITTENBY YURIBENDER


Coronavirus, digitalisation and ESG are just some of the issues private banks are having to face up to, says CaixaBank’s private banking boss, Victor Allende


C


aixaBank’s private banking leader, Victor Allende, has lost none of his ebullience during the restricting times


of the Covid-19 pandemic,which hit his Spanish homeland hard in its early days. Yet he is becoming more thoughtful, if not slightly more introverted, as a result of this latest crisis. “All our private banking centres


are open and our clients are asking for physical meetings in addition to digital contact. Theywant to see us in person,” says the bearded banking boss. The issue for Mr Allende is that


his leadership role, forwhich he has been widely praised across the private banking community, is changing beyond recognition. “I previously thought thatmyjob


had everything to do with visiting our bankers in the branches, encouraging them personally and explaining things,” says a smiling Mr Allende, his eyes shining across the Zoom link.


ARM’SLENGTH Butnowhe is more frequently found in his Barcelona headquarters – and occasionally the satellite office in downtownMadrid – plotting the newstrategy for Caixa’s growing private banking presence. “I have realised, I need to let them


do theirownthing. I have pretty much changed the balance ofhow


8 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020


much time I spend in their branches, but it has not been easy for me. Everything has changed, a lot.” For the first month of the


lockdown, Mr Allende found himself in twice daily video meetings with his advisers, but that timetable has since been reduced to a couple of virtual meetings a week. He faces the inevitable future with a fateful shrug, recognising theremay not be any going back to his exuberant tours of the private banking outposts.


EARLYMOVER This is by no means the first transformation he has masterminded. His private banking unit spearheaded the digitalisation forwhich Spanish banking has becomefamous, in an innovative milieu populated by high-tech rivals including BBVA and Santander. CaixaBankwas one of the early movers back in 2015, introducing an advanced digital platform to facilitate the acquisitions of Portugal’s BPI and a string of Spanish purchases including Barclays, as the country’s bloated banking sectorwas slimmed down. This consolidation continues with


the addition of Bankia’s business, leaving Mr Allende responsible for €73bn ($86bn) in assets for 65,000 clients. Having introduced the Linea Abierta (‘Open Line’) digital service, followed by a virtual ‘wall’where consultants and clients meet, he has more recently concentrated on developing the ‘Ocean’ mutual fund sales portal. Today’s main challenge is to


further boost fee-generating activities. “Charging fees is crucial to our profitability,” stresses Mr Allende, adding a hint of steel to his customary affability. “Our approach is tomove froma non-fee to an


CV Víctor Allende


2019-present Chairman of the board, CaixaBank Wealth


Management Luxembourg


2015-present Executive director of


Private Banking at CaixaBank


2012 to 2014 Director of Private and Personal Banking


Catalonia, CaixaBank


2008 to 2012


Head of business development, Private and Personal Banking,


CaixaBank 2006-2008


Head of Business Development,


Morgan Stanley, Iberia


2004-2006


Head ofUHNW clients, Morgan Stanley, Iberia


absolutely fee-based approach.We have adapted quickly in the last three or four years and are in the middle of that change.” With the figures at his fingertips,


Mr Allende laments thatwhile 55 per cent of his private clients pay for some kind of discretionary portfolio management arrangement, only 22 per cent of total AuMsare invested in discretionary portfolios. “So you can see, we have comea longway, but we still have a very longway to go,” he adds. Althoughmany of these clients


are using DIY trading tools, they are expected to eventually seek a deeper relationship. “In the next five to seven years, a big percentage of our clients willwant to do some things by themselves, so we will offer them the best execution-only facilities with ocean as our third party mutual funds platform,” he says. “But then the next day they might need advice, so we must create a holistic platform for them.”


ESGEXPERTISE This emphasis on investments shows Mr Allende sees the successful private bank of the 2020s predominantly as a portfolio manager, with products typically incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies, often required by changing regulations.“Within the next three or four years, everything in the asset management business will be ESG,” he emphasises. “Everything.” “If you are not open to social


sensitivities, you will simply be put out of business,” he suggests. “There is no queue on the street of clients asking us for ESGor sustainable strategies.Weare the oneswho have the responsibility to change the world and provide clients with these products.”


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