“Structural transformation is continuing unabated”

“Structural transformation is continuing unabated”

In an interview, Hans Syz talks about the latest developments in the private banking industry.

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Hans Syz

Hans Syz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Maerki Baumann & Co.

What are the expectations of today’s private banking clients?

Private banking clients are frequently well informed and increasingly questioning the added value offered by their bank. They appreciate having a reliable partner they trust to thoroughly discuss wealth-related matters. The long-term focus of these discussions is generally on asset preservation. Growing importance is being attached not only to investment advice and wealth management but also other investment-related topics such as private retirement planning and real estate as well as the legal and tax aspects of investing.

Which strategy do you employ as you strive to meet up to these expectations?

Our bank not only has a long tradition of systematically focusing on clients but this focus is also firmly anchored in our corporate culture. We use our independence as a family-run enterprise to provide our clients with personal, individual advisory services. Our boutique-style concept gives us the flexibility we need to swiftly react to changing client requirements and new conditions. Business with Swiss clients accounts for around three quarters of our assets under management. Our strong market focus gives us a detailed understanding of our core markets which has, in turn, earned us a high level of credibility.

In keeping with this strategy, which areas are you investing in?

The past few years have seen us making very targeted investments in employee development, professionalizing our advisory and investment processes and establishing high-performance IT systems. We’re not only making the changes needed to comply with new regulatory requirements but are also looking into both setting up modern investment solutions and the potential offered by digitalization. Just recently we launched an innovative, system-assisted investment approach that enables our clients to benefit from a caliber of asset management services comparable to that which they would receive from a family office.

Which do you feel are the most fundamental challenges currently facing the industry?

Client asset regularization as well as growing regulatory intensity have caused the complexity of service provision and the costs associated with it to rise enormously. We are finding ourselves faced simultaneously with both intense competition and considerable margin pressure. More than a few of our rivals are striving to achieve a higher level of standardization for economic reasons. The priorities of proprietary products and efficient sales organizations, however, quite frequently conflict with clients’ actual needs.

How are these developments impacting your business model?

We consciously restrict our activities to those portions of the value chain where our bank can create added value. These are primarily investment advice and asset management. We cooperate with professional partners on matters related to retirement planning, law or taxes as well as transaction processing and administration. This outsourcing strategy allows us to preserve our independence over the long-term while also ensuring continuity in the services we provide our clients. Modular services let us individualize our offer.

Which developments do you expect to see in the industry over the next three to five years?

Structural transformation is continuing unabated. This transformation is being driven by sophisticated client needs, a high level of regulatory intensity and pressure on Switzerland as a financial center. The associated consolidation process combined with outside providers entering the market is triggering changes in the market’s structures. Simply looking at a company’s size reveals little about a bank’s prospects. For innovative niche players with a clear strategy, a systematic focus on the market and services as well as a strong proximity to their clients, however, extremely interesting opportunities are opening up.

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