Millionaires get top treatment

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 November, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 November, 1994, 12:00am

RELATIONSHIP is a word that comes up repeatedly in conversation with private bankers.

Clients with amounts of more than US$1 million (about HK$7.72 million) to invest will not tolerate being treated as just another account number.

'First and foremost, you value the relationship rather than churning the account,' Kathryn Shih, director of private and trust banking at Swiss Bank, said.

'We shy away from doing transactions for the sake of it. We believe we should give the client what he wants and what we both feel is good for him. In the long run, if the relationship is strong, it can generate profitability back to the bank.' The importance placed on relationship is one of the reasons for the widespread tailoring of investment packages for private bank clients.

It flows through to other areas such as staff training, according to Ms Shih.

'We pride ourselves on being professional private bankers. We take a lot of effort with training. Once we have hired someone, we give them internal training, often regional training in different products and skills and we send them to our Swiss offices.' Swiss Bank private bankers are trained in many areas of the bank's business to maximise their efficiency and the opportunities for cross selling.

'The idea is to make them a good representative of the bank, not just have them concentrate on private banking. We treat the relationship with the client as a partnership so, if, for example, the client is seeking to list his company, our private bankers can spot that and get the experts in when the client wants it.' Clients take time to trust their bankers' investment advise. Many clients begin their relationship with the bank by exercising a degree of control over their investments which they later relinquish, becoming discretionary clients.

Ms Shih said: 'We start off by finding out what the client wants.

'One of our favourite questions is: 'What do you expect, what do you want?' We try to find out the client's risk tolerance and how much they know about the products before we start advising them.