Less exclusive and more flexible than commonly thought

Here are some tips to help you work towards your goals more effectively and get the information you need during your initial consultation, to the benefit of both you and your private banking partner.

For many of us, it may take a gentle nudge for us to dare to walk into a Swiss private bank. The myth that you need to be a millionaire simply to enter the lobby is hard to dispel. In actual fact, you don’t have to wait until you’ve earned your first million or won the lottery to become a client. An existing savings portfolio, a lump-sum pension or an expected inheritance can often provide sufficient capital to enter into a private banking relationship. Likewise, the purchase or sale of a property, a business or a valuable work of art can open the door to a private bank account.

Solid preparation is crucial

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare before your first meeting. You need to start by considering your individual goals, business assets and personal wealth. It is also mutually beneficial for you to outline your financial objectives in the short, medium and long term. You should detail your key investment considerations, the risk thresholds above which you are uncomfortable and what you expect to achieve over time by entrusting your assets to a private bank. For some clients, safety and capital preservation are essential, while others prefer to focus on returns and innovative investment ideas.

Another important consideration is how much responsibility you wish to delegate to the private bank. Some new clients may appreciate being able to outsource all decision-making to the bank. Others may prefer to decide how the bank invests their money. Either way, the more specific you are about your wishes and goals, the more likely it is that the initial consultation will pave the way for a lasting banking relationship founded on trust. 

The advisory services offered by private banks are generally more comprehensive and flexible than those offered by the big names and cantonal banks. At a private bank, the relationship manager takes care of all the client’s financial needs. What makes private banks different is the high quality and consistency of the personal advice that clients receive. This is their primary commercial advantage. Senior management is committed to providing excellent client service, and staff are more dedicated to this goal than at other banks. This is what it takes to build long-term trust with clients, which is essential because money is, after all, a highly sensitive issue. 

So you can expect a different approach to one of the big names. At a private bank, a dedicated relationship manager will take care of all aspects of your wealth management, starting with income and assets, but also taking into account property ownership, the vesting of pension funds and issues such as advance inheritances, setting up a community of heirs or making your assets more tax efficient. On all these issues, when you attend your monthly or annual meeting with ‘your’ bank, you are likely always to see the same person on the other side of the desk. Staff turnover is much less of a problem for private banks than for their commercial, cantonal or foreign-owned peers.

Guided by your personal requirements

The second commercial advantage is freedom of action. Only a handful of private banks market their own investment products. Instead, their clients can choose from a range of unlisted investment funds, ETFs and structured products that are truly best-in-class, selected from the gamut of options available on the market. The key consideration in these investment decisions is the personal needs of each client. Some may want to invest in line with ESG principles, while others may want to prioritise supporting the local economy, for example by investing in Swiss equities. Others still may prefer to invest in a megatrend, focusing on investment themes such as AI or demographic change.

At a private bank, internal brands or commission-based incentives do not influence investment recommendations. As a result, fee schedules are transparent, meaning that you don’t have to worry about hidden costs eating into your investment returns behind your back, or ultimately not obtaining the best product for your needs. Individual needs and objectives – not in-house investment products – form the backbone of a comprehensive, long-term client portfolio that is managed consistently with these considerations in mind. Private banks can thus be seen as ‘master builders’, organising and dutifully managing your assets over the long term, as trusted partners in all things financial.