How this private bank is winning with its small and nimble approach

Investing

How this private bank is winning with its small and nimble approach

We speak with the fifth generation of the founders of Bordier & Cie, Evrard Bordier, on staying relevant and profitable in today’s competitive private banking environment, the best investment he has made and things that are giving him sleepless nights.

Published on 28 September 2016

As managing partner of the 170-year-old independent, international private bank, Bordier & Cie, Evrard Bordier, wants the institution to be known as the best boutique bank in the market. Playing to the boutique’s strengths, his strategy involves going against the trend of standardisation to provide tailored solutions and services for clients. We find out more from him about the rising importance of digital platforms for wealth management and how partnerships are key to increasing offerings and profits, without raising fixed costs.

How have the needs of clients changed over the years when it comes to managing their wealth?

Offering clients some chocolates and coffee once a year while going over their portfolios is no longer sufficient. Clients are better informed and now have access to more sophisticated modes of gathering knowledge for themselves. They are now accessing more and more information online and consequently have much higher standards for client servicing. They are also challenging how the private bank remains relevant in a day and age when clients have access to online tools and trading technology. In the old days, your private banker is considered good if he makes money for you.
Now the private bank and banker have to offer clients something truly unique that they cannot get from other channels.

Is wealth management still relevant in 2016?

Wealth management will always be relevant but the differentiating factors are more important than ever. Traditionally, banks are driven by revenue and product pushing has led to a homogenised market. Clients themselves are also struggling to see the relevance in many so-called differentiating factors. The importance of differentiating factors such as combining customer centricity with an open architecture system inspires trust among our clientele.

I believe wealth management is more relevant than ever since individuals are becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and tend to conduct professional and social businesses in various countries. This diaspora of wealth is further compounded by the jargon of increased transparency.

Inevitably, there is a surged need for wealth management and expertise on multi-jurisdiction requirements. Such know-how helps to navigate the nebulous shifts in the global economy by identifying key triggers that would impact a portfolio.

What strategy have you devised to stay relevant and profitable as a boutique player in today’s environment?

Our strategy is to stay small and focus on giving our clients a full service, not a one-track offering. We also aim to leverage on partnerships to provide both breadth and depth in the ambit of our services. We want to continue positioning ourselves as the best boutique private bank in Asia by strengthening our core offering: pure play private banking, asset management and family office services. As such, partnering with best-in-class institutions helps to accentuate our business model in that it provides quality assurance to our clients. Outsourcing our critical offering has contributed to our success in Asia. We are nimble and not burdened by a massive cost base. Even as we grow, those key fundamentals in providing a stable long-term business to our stakeholders are always going to remain.

In 10 years’ time, what do you think will be different about wealth management for clients?

The legion of players with smaller-sized client portfolios will be automated and the threshold for a personal service will be higher than it is today. Digital platforms will be a bigger-than-ever channel for attracting new clients, promoting the brand and communicating with clients.

Ten years ago, I would talk to people on the phone all day. Now I hardly receive phone calls! I chat online or via messaging apps. There is no doubt that digital behaviour is increasingly penetrating the world of wealth management.

How this private bank is winning with its small and nimble approach

Bordier & Cie’s Office

On the personal front, what’s the greatest investment tip that you have picked up over your career?

You should only take debt on yielding assets. You take credit on property or a financial investment portfolio. Taking debt to go shopping or buy a material item makes absolutely no sense.

Best investment you have ever made?

Long-term financial investment portfolio coupled with opportunistic investments in property. The long-term approach allows me to be agnostic day-to-day on price fluctuations if I like the long-term fundamentals. It gives me the cash flow and leverage to supplement the portfolio with market opportunities in real estate where I can capitalise on timing and location.

What are the best and worst parts of running a successful family business?

The best part is that you can imagine anything you want. You are in control to think through ideas and no one will take you down as you are not beholden to the whims of any shareholder. You can deliver your ideas and do what you need to do. That’s why I like a boutique – I can get things done.

The worst is having sleepless nights. You are in charge of most of the decisions – you only have yourself to blame if things go wrong. We all make mistakes and I think it’s important to make them, but for the most part, you would want to get it right the first time as much as possible. Since it is a family business, there is an added pressure to protect our reputation too.

Any tips for a prospective client who is trying to decide on his best advisor?

I am in favour of finding a great advisor and sticking to only having one. Don’t be distracted by different ideas and opinions to the point where you end up not taking any direction at all – inertia means inaction and lost opportunities.

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