World’s Best Private Banks 2021: Eastern European

Entrepreneurs and business owners power private banking in Central and Eastern Europe.

Private banking is a relatively young industry in Central and Eastern Europe, and the practice differs in some important respects from Western models. Most CEE countries house less “old money,” or inherited wealth, than those with longer-running capitalist economies. Instead, the great majority of private banking clients are entrepreneurs and business owners who have built up wealth during their own lifetime or are the first generation to inherit. Private bankers therefore need to combine expertise in wealth management with a skill set that addresses their clients’ needs as business owners.

While some markets, such as Poland, are growing rapidly and attracting more competition, in most CEE countries private banking services are provided through dedicated units within the local subsidiaries of large European banks. These players can leverage the investment banking, fund management and technology capabilities of a large and powerful financial services group to meet the needs of their clients in a set of still-emerging wealth markets.

Methodology: Behind the Rankings

Global Finance staff select winners for these awards based on entries submitted by banks, company documents and public filings. No proprietary information was sought or shared in the awards process. We consider local market knowledge, global footprint and investment breadth and sophistication. Because metrics are rarely public in this sensitive corner of finance, we incorporate perspective from analysts and consultants. Performance data are also drawn from industry sources including Scorpio Partnership’s annual Global Private Banking Benchmark and Asian Private Banker magazine’s regional league tables. Size and growth are a factor, but Global Finance also considered creativity, uniqueness of offering and dedication to private banking as a core business either globally or regionally.



UniCredit’s competitive advantage is its portfolio modeling team’s Global Investment Strategy, which informs its local bankers’ asset allocation and other key investment decisions. Open architecture builds upon strong partnerships with top global asset managers, enabling client access to a broad range of investment opportunities, including alternatives and private equity, that are increasingly in demand as clients seek greater risk diversification during the Covid crisis. UniCredit’s multiple offerings in the environmental, social and governance sphere similarly open investment opportunities for clients focused on achieving sustainable outcomes.



Credit Suisse has built a strong client base among entrepreneurs across the region and especially in Russia, where it recently reinforced its expertise in offshore private banking by poaching an 11-strong Russia team from BNP Paribas.

Globally, CEO Thomas Gottstein has bolstered Credit Suisse’s push to be the “bank for entrepreneurs,” tightening regional structures and centralizing advisory and lending for international wealth management. In October, the bank hired Christian Meissner, former head of corporate and investment banking at Bank of America, to tailor the group’s investment banking services to meet the private banking needs of wealthy entrepreneurs. This included establishing a new investment bank advisory group targeting entrepreneurs with midsized companies recording annual revenues of $50 million to $500 million on corporate deals, bond and equity issuance.

Looking ahead, the Swiss lender is developing a new digital direct private bank with what it anticipates will be a best-in-class app for wealth management.



Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) has a broad geographic presence across the CEE region and enjoys strong support from the Vienna-based institution’s investment banking and asset management teams. In the Covid-19 era, when many privately owned businesses are restructuring their finances, RBI also has accelerated lending to business owners—including those in the CEE region, where it’s especially needed.

RBI has been able to maintain its private banking services to business owners during the pandemic thanks to its seamless switch to remote channels to provide advisory services and enable transactions. Improved digital access through its RaiConnect app launched in September empowers its private bankers to provide ongoing support for premium and corporate clients.



Russian banking giant Sberbank is proud of its technological prowess. Indeed, it is rebranding and changing their name, itself as what some have called “a tech company with a banking license.” Those skills have enabled it to make a rapid and flexible switch to remote working, effectively setting up a virtual private bank.

Sberbank’s investment advisory teams provided almost three times as many investment ideas and recommendations in the first half of 2020 as they did in the same period last year, and the private banking group attracted 10% more clients. In response to the pandemic, it rolled out a new platform and user-friendly procedures to make donations supporting research for a vaccine and drugs to fight Covid-19, with Sberbank committing to match client donations.