In Praise Of Private Bank Excellence

Through the pandemic, private bankers found their advice more valued than ever.

A little more than a year ago, we hosted our 2020 Private Bank Awards in the warm wood-paneled rooms of the Harvard Club in New York City. It was the last event we held in-person before going into lockdown mode. 

The past year has brought change that was once unimaginable, and wrought havoc among the world’s economies. Private banking was not unaffected—it was busier than ever. The global population of ultrahigh-net-worth individuals continued to grow through the turmoil, as did their wealth. Among the newly minted billionaires were CEOs from some of the year’s blockbuster IPOs, including Tony Xu of DoorDash, Frank Slootman of Snowflake and Brian Chesky of Airbnb. This growing class demands ever more in the way of services—from alternative and ESG investment options to advice on structures and succession to anytime/anywhere access to accounts. Through the pandemic, private bankers found their advice more valued than ever.

“We always had a close relationship with clients,” David Bailin, CIO of Citi Private Bank told Global Finance in December. “This year I would describe it as truly intimate.”

Private banks continued to deploy technology to better serve their wealthiest clients, providing real-time information as well as a range of financial analysis tools. As Covid-19 swept the world, banks found clients grateful for information—even virtual seminars on health and wellness. Private banks also continued leveraging digital possibilities to offer advisory and other traditional private bank services to expanding circles of wealth: from the ultrarich to the merely affluent. Santander, for example, is finding gold in the middle market of clients with around $1 million to $15 million. In private banking, as elsewhere, the pandemic only served to heighten and accelerate these preexisting digital and market trends.

2020 was a year of good profits for private banking when other areas of finance suffered. In recent years, private banks have become critical profit centers and growth areas for most bank groups. The coronavirus intensified the pressure on these divisions to continue to grow their business and shore up margins across their organizations.

As we finish the first quarter of 2021, private bankers continue to contend with all of these factors. Remotely or otherwise, our award winners will rise the challenge.