The transition to the use of digital tools in private banking is drawn by inefficiencies experienced by private bankers. If not dealt with, they will likely impact client satisfaction aside from making the private banker less productive. At the outset, qualified and experienced private bankers are very limited. And the problem is training private bankers is an increasingly long and expensive process. Improving the productivity of existing private bankers surely is a faster and more efficient way to grow the depth and breadth of services.
Compliance and risk management
Rapid regulatory developments correlating to costs continues to be one of the biggest challenges for private banks operating in the region. In a recent market trend study, Elliot Shadforth stated that countries in the Asia-Pacific region has country-level regulations as opposed to standard overarching regulations, like the EU requirements in Europe. He further explained that costs rise in Asia because firms must comply with varying regulations across different markets. Another study by Yacin Mahieddine and Simon Tong (2015) advised that private banks in Asia are increasingly burdened by risk and regulatory requirements, even more so than any other segments within banking. They stated that regulations span numerous dimensions and serve various objectives including investor protection, financial crime prevention, capital adequacy management, taxation compliance, professional code of conduct, and risk management.
For instance, one of the more cumbersome jobs for a private banker that also greatly affects the client journey and lifecycle, is ensuring that their client’s asset allocation fits their profile. It may look simple but with the lack of technology, this activity equates to numerous manual activities such as:
- Checking client information and documentation, in order to comply with onboarding regulations. Such information is passed on and confirmed manually through e-mail and phone conversations. This is especially true for client referrals from other segments of the bank like retail branches that are onboarded in a manner that lacks collaboration and automation. In this scenario, the compliance to regulatory mandates relies on siloed audit logs and the proactiveness of the private banker.
- Reading through client related information and documentations from different systems first in order to give suitable recommendations. Unless the private banker remembers the client’s risk profile and portfolio, a central Document Management System (DMS) would make it easier to pull out information to check the mandate terms and cash balance information from core banking in a matter of seconds.
- Consolidating multiple portfolios, which takes time, greatly hinders them to make decisions quickly. In a highly volatile market fast decision is critical to manage the risk.
With a digital tool, these are not only automated but also gives confidence to private bankers that they are being compliant in every step. Private bankers will be able to provide faster, more reliable and more customized advice backed by data. The number and complexity of ever evolving compliance rules make them error-prone with potentially dire consequences.
Customer information at their fingertips
A limited list of demands makes up the majority of HNW clients’ requests to their private bankers. Such tasks are prime targets for automation. They include simple tasks such as: asking about account credit and debits, coupon payments, pricing of investments, bank statements, financial statements, bank certifications, etc. Unless automated, they can prove very time consuming and not scalable but don’t add much value to the client. With a digital tool, private bankers can obtain the requested information directly just with a few clicks whether they are sitting at their desk or on the road. This is the ideal scenario for a private bank setting – having the ability to show a complete wealth of information to the clients at their request. Once this is taken care of, private bankers have more time to serve their clients better.
Despite the presence of disruptive ideas when it comes to technological trends, human interaction remains to be the essence of servicing HNW clients of the private banking business. Servicing this segment is much more complex than simply implementing digital tools to have a 360-degree view of a client. It takes time to get the information needed to ensure HNW clients are appropriately catered to. According to a market trend study by Bassam Salem (2017), it takes trust in order to get relevant details from a private banking client. It is something that cannot be rushed, and the richness of that information arises as the relationship evolves between a private banker and client. Having digital support would be the best balance to the emotional intelligence that a private banker brings to the table. With the time saved from automating multiple steps in different transactions, private bankers now have more time to listen to the needs of their clients.
Digital tools also promote collaboration among the different teams of a private bank. Investment ideas coming from internal and external research and investment strategy teams, will be delivered to the frontline private bankers. Ideation will come in through digital advisory, giving the front liners the ability to run that investment idea against their client portfolio. Suitability of investment ideas will have already considered client portfolio and risk profiles therefore compliance is done pre-advice stage; neither the bank nor the front liners need to be concerned with this issue again. A smart digital advisory lessens concentration risk as it would be able to generate better and more suitable investments for the client. The front liners then have a story for the client that is both relevant and tailored to their needs, so they can either call or meet with the client and present to them using the right information instantly. Digital tools also enable private bankers to perform price discovery and execution near real time.
Pipeline management and customer acquisition
Another area that a digital tool can enhance is the tracking of client relationships and opportunities. After a private banker digests and relays the bank’s market outlook and strategy to a client, it is important to log the client’s feedback, so they can assess and qualify if their recommendations are relevant to the different needs of a client. The right combination of human interaction and technology will enable private bankers to market palatable and highly performing investments to clients which will then open bigger opportunities like having their clients decide to transfer AUM they have with other private banks.
Data analytics can add value for a private bank’s customer acquisition strategy. The right technology can identify potential clients from other segments. A good system will be able to track if a client’s business is qualified, so a private banker can make wise decisions on where to put his time and energy. This includes knowing if a client has an appetite to buy more financial products initiated by the system’s capabilities to thrust cross-selling efficiencies for private bankers.
Private banks are in a good position to leverage systems in order to have processes for junior private bankers. They should already have pre-identified accounts for the new private bankers brought about by a system. Creating a data analytics unit to support private bankers would help find potential clients from its own database of clients, third party sources and social networks that could be qualified to be under the private banking segment. Adding customer segmentation into the bank’s customer acquisition strategy is also made easier with digitization. Digital tools enable flexibility in order to provide different customer experiences according to the client segmentation strategy. It can deliver multiple metrics, so a private bank can measure the effectiveness of new products launched and investment ideas created for its target clients so that any research can be refined depending on multiple factors including segmentation strategy and seasonal patterns.
All these trends and possibilities arising from digital technologies, if implemented well, can become a competitive advantage for private banks. Implementing digital tools with the correct strategy will address a lot of inefficiencies experienced by private bankers. In return, private banks will be able to attract and retain seasoned private bankers as well as increase client satisfaction because of the expected outcome in being aligned with digital initiatives that are available in the market. Rather than seeing it from an angle focusing on costs, private banks should start seeing the overall benefits of implementing technology in the long run and what they can do today so they are not left behind in terms of digitization, just like how other industries have welcomed disruption in an optimistic way. The three areas discussed here are only examples of a wide universe of possibilities where private banks can start its digitization journey.
Kimberly Espiritu is regional sales manager at FINARTIS