Nick Pollard, chief executive officer for Coutts in Asia, explains to Hubbis the importance today of delivering intelligent, more focused investment advice and wealth planning services, while at the same time investing more selectively in those markets which offer scale and client growth opportunities.
Date: July 6, 2012
How can private banks deliver what clients want in today’s environment?
The best way we can position ourselves is as a provider of intelligent advice. This means quality advice and relevant products and services backed by insight and data.
We are enhancing our investment products and services teams around the world. Our global network of investment strategists are on top of market developments and are able to offer real-time guidance to clients on how to navigate the turbulence in the markets today.
It is not just about investment performance. Clients want guidance in these difficult times. The banks which will benefit in these times are those who are constantly out there talking to clients about their concerns.
The ability to connect clients to expertise and networks within and outside the bank is important as well. For example, specialists advising on philanthropy or business succession. We recently launched Coutts Knowledge Exchange, an online resource for Coutts clients featuring expert insights, candid client interviews, and specially-commissioned tutorial films, to promote greater understanding and provoke discussion on a range of topics relevant in the high net worth space.
How can you make this profitable for you?
Delivering an informed service to clients requires the right people. This includes bankers who are sufficiently qualified, experienced and confident to deliver the guidance clients want. It also includes individuals in the products and services area who are equipped to develop and deliver appropriate solutions. The investment can be high but the return will justify the cost for the banks that get the economics right.
Aside from investment advice, there are a whole slew of issues that clients grapple with that we can help with as well. Asia will be undergoing one of the largest inter-generational wealth transfers in memory over the next decade, and issues around succession and inter-generational wealth transfer will become increasingly important.
For example, we are having more conversations with clients on succession planning, from both a product and advice perspective. Over the bank’s 300-year history, we have managed the financial affairs of many clients through successive generations. We are in a unique position to help client with issues like business succession.
What education and training for your relationship managers is required to ensure they make the most of these opportunities?
We focus on the softer skills of our frontline bankers, by appraising them and then training them depending on their needs. This is key in being able to stand out in front of a client who may be multi-banked.
For example, in terms of being able to read a situation and know how and when to offer advice depending on the family dynamics, for instance, requires sophisticated social skills.
However, it is important to look more widely at where we can find the right people to join the organisation. This might mean corporate and investment bankers, or lawyers.
What impact are the global trends and regulatory pressures today having on your business?
All banks are grappling with regulatory pressures. Those that are able to navigate these issues and have relevant propositions in place that are consistent with regulatory requirements will have a leg up on the competition.
A lot of work is being undertaken at Coutts to ensure we continue to be compliant and able to operate effectively amid the new regulatory regime coming on stream in the coming years.
We have reduced the number of countries in which we operate across the Coutts’ international network from 170 to 80. In addition to commercial reasons, risk management has played a big factor in these decisions.
Against this backdrop, how can you build successful businesses in local markets?
The traditional global strategy of having a footprint in every country is gone, given the economics of managing these. The key is to identify key markets with scale and client growth opportunities and invest accordingly.
We have an ambitious growth agenda in Asia. We are very clear about where we want to focus. We have onshore operations in Hong Kong, Singapore and India. And we have offshore propositions for China, Taiwan and Indonesia primarily, and then also The Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. In addition, we run a global non-resident Indian business out of Singapore.
We will continue to enhance our investment product suite and services; and invest in our people and systems to better serve our clients.