Fund Management

How well does your private banker understand charges, products and your account?

A staff reporter, 29 January 2005


Rather like the editor of a Formula 1 racing magazine, Super Bikes or Private Pilot, we occasionally have the ability to test the product as...

Rather like the editor of a Formula 1 racing magazine, Super Bikes or Private Pilot, we occasionally have the ability to test the product as a customer. This always proves to be an illuminating experience whether your obsession is racing a Ducati around a circuit or speaking to private bankers.

It was the consultants, Oliver Wyman, who in a recent study reported that most private banks prided themselves on the quality of their overall service while in reality most high net-worth customer needs are poorly understood. Satisfaction rates as viewed from the industry are more than 80 per cent - yet when customers are interviewed, satisfaction rates are low for a retail business – on a par with car dealers!

From the other side of the fence there is occasionally the same sense of panic that can arise when asking a call centre a difficult question. Ever tried to tell a call centre that it is not your fault? To many private bankers, it is inconceivable that their bank could be wrong.

Does your relationship manager know the fee schedule precisely? Can they explain why fees are levied in such a way? Do they have any discretion and are they trained to use it wisely? That might be very important for a customer relationship especially early on. Can they explain hidden charges BEFORE the customer finds them out?

How often do your private bankers give out the wrong information, only to contradict it in the next phone call or have it corrected by a colleague? Do they know the right answer and how often do they have to call back? Does the relationship manager forget to ring back? What impact does this have on client confidence?

Is there a sense that a request for information; fees, product line, interest rates, is met with a barely concealed groan? Clients don’t maximise their subscriptions if it seems too much trouble to fax, snail mail, e-mail, the full information to allow clients to make their own choices. Technology can help to make this less of a chore and more of a competitive advantage.

Do the customers know more than the private banker about the bank’s products and also more about the products of the bank’s competitors? Or is it just really hard to get any kind of information because the banker doesn’t know enough or the bank doesn’t provide them with the right resources.

In a normal week at any normal private bank your customers are feeling as badly as this. Previously, I have written about the importance of training last week and that is a crucial factor. Bankers are not born with the accumulated knowledge of an institution they need help, support and nurturing – of the right people. The bank’s representatives are only as good as the bank allows them to be. Banks can choose to hire the right people (or the cheapest) and to train them (or not). Too many relationship managers blame the bank when things don’t go right – a natural reaction in a big organisation – and, yes, ultimately it is the bank’s fault.

How much feedback are you really getting through your private bankers? What is your current feedback about your fee schedule? That issue is the bank’s problem and a little research might uncover why customers are only buying certain products, or dealing in a certain, unprofitable way. Perhaps they are keeping cash at another bank and expensive non-dealing custody with you.

Oliver Wyman notes that quick personalised service is really what customer’s desire. This need is unmet while private banks serenely believe that they are providing a wide range of customer friendly, trusted products and services. They continue to fail themselves by not seeking honest feedback from their bankers and their clients.

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