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The future of private banking

In private banking, success today means reflecting the market as it really is, not relying on a picture from the rear view mirror. 

‘Tradition’, ‘exclusivity’, ‘discretion’ are the likely associations when people think about private banking.  But any clichés associated with panelled rooms, leather armchairs and cigars are being challenged daily, and not by ‘outsiders’ but by the rapidly changing nature of private banking clients themselves. 

For most of the 400-year existence of private banking, the profile of its ‘natural’ clientele was both predictable and pretty homogenous – male, often beneficiaries of inherited wealth, from a narrow social band, focused primarily on the protection of their wealth and its handover to the next generation. Today, while that profile has far from disappeared, it is rapidly becoming more varied as a new type of wealth creator emerges. How does this new profile differ? 

For a start, they are far less likely to be exclusively male dominated. They will have played a much more central role in the creation of their wealth, as successful entrepreneurs often operating in highly innovative areas of technology. They are full digital natives, or at least highly familiar with digital platforms. And they take a different approach to investment, very often seeking not just a financial return but active social benefit from their investment choices. 

This profile of client has already put a lot of skin in their own game, taking substantial risks where others have been risk averse, choosing to lead rather than follow. They do not therefore want a purely passive relationship with their wealth. They will seek more frequent bank interactions. And they will expect to be challenged, stimulated and informed by the relationship with their Private Banker. 

Does this mean ‘all change’ with mass migration from panelled rooms to iPads and a fully digitised relationship? No. Today’s private banking clients set as much store by exclusivity and tailored personal service as their predecessors down the generations. They will continue to demand service standards and styles that adapt to complex needs and reflect highly individual circumstances. The private banking relationship management role – personal, discreet, offering high degrees of availability – will continue to be central. Successful private banks will retain this core element of their offer. They will supplement it however with the most appropriate elements of a digital approach. How exactly? 

Three key areas will make a pivotal difference. Imaginatively leveraging analytics and insight will sustain the proactive, opportunity creating conversations that the ‘new client’ wants to have with their relationship manager. Omnichannel engagement will enable new communication channels and styles to deliver a modern version of “call me any time”. And process digitisation will contribute to a smoother and more truly personal banking experience, from on-boarding onwards. 

Private banking will always be private – in the sense of tailored, highly responsive and not available to everybody. Applied judiciously, digital techniques will enhance rather than displace the personal experience for a new generation of wealth creators. Today’s private banks have the opportunity not just to get close to an optimum experience. They can go all the way and consistently deliver it, aided not displaced by digital.




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