Relationship Management in Private Banking

In 2008, I had the opportunity to be part of the newly launched FNB Private Clients Division as a transactional banker. The on-boarding process entailed undergoing a weeklong induction in South Africa. The induction itself also offered a great privilege to interact with the segment’s top brass and colleagues from FNB Private Clients and RMB Private Banking.

Relationship Management in Private Banking

In 2008, I had the opportunity to be part of the newly launched FNB Private Clients Division as a transactional banker. The on-boarding process entailed undergoing a weeklong induction in South Africa. The induction itself also offered a great privilege to interact with the segment’s top brass and colleagues from FNB Private Clients and RMB Private Banking.

I made good use of the opportunity and forged relationships with most of my colleagues. More importantly, I was able to link up with one of the seasoned Relationship Managers, Rajesprie, who was equally willing to have me as one of her apprentices. This opened small doors that actually led to larger rooms and she would on a number of occasions   invite me to   some of her clients  meetings and visits to appreciate  the D.I.L.O. (Day in the life of).

As I was readying myself for the trip back home On the final day of the induction, I got a call from Rajesprie. “Gomolemo, before you hop into the plane back to Botswana, I would like us to go see one last client. No need to put on a suit. We are walking her dogs and then having a quick breakfast with her. It is our Saturday morning tradition. She stays by the corner less than a kilo from the Training Centre. I will pick you up at 6 am,” she said. I happily obliged. Afterall, my flight was in the afternoon. 

Everything went as planned and yes, I got to meet the client, a very sharp-minded, welcoming  and engaging  senior citizen. The meeting was absolutely fantastic  and on our way out, she  stops and says to me, “Young man from Botswana, a relationship manager, is a very important   person in one’s  life. My Rajesprie here is as important as my lawyer and my doctor. I would struggle without her.” 

Why am I telling this story? Thirteen years later, those words still matter. Thirteen years ago, I took a vow to be more to my clients. Relationship Management to me is not just a title or a job; it is a commitment to clients and an unequivocal desire to become a member of the client’s family, self-appointed board member, or that employee without a pay cheque in the client’s business.  That’s the vow I took some years ago and Rajesprie and her client were preachers at the time and made my bond with relationship management official.

It is extremely vital in private banking for banks to be deliberate and to have the precision of a sniper when selecting private bankers or grooming future stars for such roles. Relationship management is such a big determinant. Private bankers typically tip the customer experience scale and decide (knowingly or unknowingly) if the client stays with the bank or finds a better bank to take care of their banking needs. The following elements are some of the aspects that should be given a clear focus to help in creating a culture of sound relationship management in private banking.

Recruitment

Over the years, I have observed that most great salespeople graduate from sales roles to relationship management. My argument has always been that sales, although a subset of relationship management, does not guarantee success in relationship management. Sales is basically transactional in its nature and the main objective is meeting targets. If I had the opportunity to hire a private banker, I would have a bias towards a candidate who excels in both sales and has a great track record in client servicing. With great customer experience (cx), sales will just come naturally. The very same client will think of no other bank but yours and will even refer clients to you. You have proven to clients that you are reliable and can be trusted.  This has to be one of the aspects that banks need to consider when hiring, meeting basic requirements well and good. However, it cannot be the be all and end all.  Proven passion should have the final say. The technical aspects then become easy to put together as you build a well rounded  private banker.

Compensation and benefits

Despite the fact that we are all never satisfied with our remuneration, there is high employee turnover in banking and private banking is no exception. This comes at a huge cost to most banks. Some bankers leave with the most important or profitable clients. Clients who opt to remain often feel the void created by their banker who left, and starting a new relationship is not always easy. Let's not even talk about the investment made training and developing the banker. Retention of such people should be top of the agenda. Relationship managers should be some of the best cared people in banking. Afterall, they have been entrusted with acquisition  and retention of the HNWI (they are usually the most profitable clients). Human Capital and the business heads in the affluent segment should always be coming up with relevant and compelling employee value propositions for this cohort and minimise  attrition.

Training and development

Relationship management is an art and a special skill.  One needs to perpetually improve one’s craft  and   demonstrate a sound knowledge of all that  matters, from regulatory policies, complete understanding of  financial services, the world around, sports and recreation, how the bank works and eco-systems to tap into. All of these are vital aspects in the private banker’s toolbox and must be used to align with the client’s universe. A good private banker therefore needs to be ready to get everything thrown at him or her and should still prove to the client that they can be trusted with the client’s money and provide solutions for clients. A customised or special training for private bankers always comes handy and this must never stop.

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