The Covid-19 pandemic was one of the biggest challenges of recent decades. Clients needed wealth managers, as never before, to navigate the volatility and still deliver results. Julius Baer stepped up to the mark with its work from home (WFH) solutions for staff ensuring constant communication, enhanced digital services for clients, and a tight focus on the markets, and longer-term on sustainability, delivering profits despite the challenges. Consequently, it won the Outstanding Global Private Bank: Global trophy at the virtual PBI Global Wealth Awards 2021 on 8 October.

Julius Baer had more interactions and touchpoints with clients than ever before during the Covid-19 pandemic, but its scalable IT infrastructure and years of investment delivered resilience, while well-trained employees responded knowledgeably to the volatility in the marketplace. Its global presence also helped to maintain contact and services.

When clients do well, so does the firm. It saw operating income rise 7.7% and profits go up by a fifth, while new net money (NNT) it brought in stood at CHF9.9 billion Swiss Francs (US$10.7bn) on 30 June 2021 versus CHF5bn the year before. The inflows show how client trust equates to money coming in.

Julius Baer has an open architecture to give clients access to the best solutions in the market and strong in-house capabilities for investments, credit, structuring and wealth planning. It enhanced its solution set in two key ways in 2020:

 

  • Family Office Services: this new unit puts everything under one roof. Key topics such as family purpose, governance, family roadmaps, succession planning and networking are all now in a single comprehensive suite, alongside advisory processes.
  • Establishing a direct investment team for private investments: the extensive network of the team gave clients easy and quick access to exclusive institutional deal opportunities and the launch of new co-investment vehicles promises much as well in the future. The bank simultaneously grew its secured structured and cashflow-based lending businesses as well.

 

Technology

Julius Baer activated a raft of home working solutions to help its relationship managers (RMs) and others stay in touch during the Covid-19 emergency and its DiAS digital advisory suite has been particularly helpful. In 2020 it invested CHF90 million (US$97.5m). Much of it was spent on enhancing online procedures and clients’ digital experience. Key initiatives included:

  • Digital on-boarding of clients in Switzerland via video identification
  • Electronic e-signature functionality
  • Two-way online and video chat capabilities. A hybrid interaction model has been built, so that face-to-face options are still there for people that want it and to give flexibility as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

 

IInvestments in data intelligence to personalize interactions and optimize pricing have also been made, and money has gone into artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to help AI-driven processing automation. This is enhancing numerous systems. For example, the Markets Toolbox was introduced 10 years ago offering real-time structuring capabilities in foreign exchange (FX). It has since been applied to other structured products and rolled out in Asia. It is now being augmented with AI and big data analytics to add yet more value to private and institutional clients and evolve its capabilities still further.

Sustainable investment products and solutions are a key focus.

A new modularized Mandate Solution Designer has also been unveiled in the area of discretionary mandates as part of the bank’s investment in technology. It will tailor investments and enhance reporting and transparency capabilities.

Sustainability

Sustainable investment products and solutions are a key focus. Julius Baer is a signatory of the UN principles of responsible investment and its responsible banking principles. A proprietary Impact Investment fund in 2020, focused on the emerging blue ocean economy agenda, also addresses three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – namely: responsible consumption; climate action; and protecting life below water. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors are also now integral to Julius Baer’s investment process, as it seeks to grow the share of its assets invested with explicit ESG integration. It is also supporting training and communities in this area and, as data standards evolve, it will undoubtedly participate in more dedicated reporting in this area as funds increasingly flow into it.

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The Private Banker International Global Wealth Awards is an annual platform that celebrates the most impressive and successful initiatives from private banks and wealth management companies who have deployed market leading, disruptive approaches to deliver globally recognized, industry changing strategies and products.