World’s Best Private Banks 2021: Western European

Technological savvy and a focus on entrepreneurs and business owners are helping Europe’s best private banks to weather the Covid-19 storm.

While Europe may be generating fewer new billionaires than Asia nowadays, a great many high net worth individuals and world-beating privately owned or family-run businesses are still based there. The original cradle of what is now a global private banking industry, Europe still has more active players than any other continent.

But the focus for much of private banking’s customer base has shifted since the Covid-19 crisis hit the continent. For many of these clients, reflecting heightened concerns to protect the value of existing businesses and other assets, wealth preservation and the focused support of family businesses through succeeding generations are now the primary goals, rather than short-term financial return.

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.



Pictet has been addressing such concerns for more than a century, and in the current environment it is assisting its clients to realign both their businesses and their other investments to benefit from future global trends. A pioneer in developing thematic investment models, in the Covid era the Swiss bank is leveraging its expertise in broad areas of investment such as high-tech, robotics, environmental and health care–related industries. At the same time, it is addressing client demand for greater risk diversification and enhanced yield by expanding the range of its offerings, notably by accessing private equity and real estate investments through such vehicles as its recently launched, $1.2 billion multimanager private equity fund of funds.

While some of its competitors are drawing in their horns and cutting costs, Pictet opened its first office in the US this year and hired 374 new staff in 2019. That included poaching an 18-strong Middle East team and the head of the new Monaco operations from archrival Julius Baer.



The private banking arm of France’s largest bank has long benefited from strong group investment in technology and the in-house expertise and clout of its investment banking colleagues. Parent BNP Paribas is now extending those ties through closer integration of the investment banking operation and the private bank.

SMEs and entrepreneurial startup clients are getting priority in lending, during the pandemic. BNP Paribas has more than 300 dedicated bankers for entrepreneurs in France alone and has set up no less than 48 “maisons des entrepreneurs” across the country to provide local support. Its existing technological edge has enabled its private bankers, assisted by its sophisticated wealth management platform myWealth, to adapt to the new virtual client relationship model better than many of its competitors. Looking ahead, the bank is embracing the search for sustainability with its entrepreneur-specific “Act for Impact” program, which prioritizes funding for innovations that will have a positive impact on society and the environment.



It is scarcely surprising that a bank deeply imbued with family tradition has a strong focus on family-owned businesses and SMEs—not only in its Spanish home market but in Portugal, Poland, the UK and across Latin America. Santander moved rapidly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that subjected its clients to business interruption and liquidity issues. In Spain and elsewhere, it moved more swiftly than most banks to approve new credit lines and channel state-backed loans to privately owned companies.

Under its new boss at its Geneva headquarters, Nicolás Barquero (previously head of funds for Deutsche Bank Wealth Management in Europe), Santander Private Banking aims to build on its longstanding relationships with business owners. That means leveraging group expertise to meet clients’ needs from business financing and investment advice to wealth and succession planning, for which there is a dedicated unit to assist family-owned businesses in the preservation of their assets through the generations.



Although geographically an outlier, Turkey’s Akbank Private Banking stands out for the speed and effectiveness of its switch to a client relationship model based on home working. Facilitating the shift was Akbank’s earlier development of sophisticated digital platforms and dedicated user-friendly apps.