The fragile financial sector is looking for ways to restore investor confidence in a still uncertain global economic outlook. And the challenge for banking professionals is to provide customers with simple financial solutions, tailored to meet their needs, with a range of investment services through an integrated bank or a traditional pure-play private bank, Thomas Meier, Julius Baer private banking chief executive for Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, believes the crushing effects of the global financial meltdown have highlighted the need for traditional private banking skills. He defines these skills as helping clients to manage their wealth through good and bad times using prudent investment vehicles and long-term investment horizons. 'Hopefully, some good will emerge from the financial tsunami that will result in the private banking industry sticking to what it should be doing, which is aiming to build strong relationships backed by proper client risk analysis, real asset allocation and trustworthiness,' Mr Meier said. Julius Baer recently separated its private bank and asset management operations into two separately listed units and that was largely welcomed by investors. A strategy viewed by financial analysts as shielding its cash-generating businesses from its hedge fund arm, which has been hit hard by the crisis. Mr Meier said the demand for private banking services would not go away. 'We will see wealth continue to grow in Asia despite the [overall economic] situation and this will require client-dedicated private bankers to help successful people achieve their long-term goals based around sensible asset allocation and realistic returns,' Mr Meier said. Because segments of the financial industry are going through a comprehensive restructuring process, the days of joining the profession in the belief there is quick money to be made have disappeared. 'Private banking is one of those careers where it is very much about the long term. It is about building long-lasting relationships above short-term gains. Relationships are built on trust which develops over time where the personal financial adviser thinks ahead of his client to provide timely solutions, not by offering speculative or risky high-return investments,' he said. Those who embrace the principle of putting the client's best interests first are still in strong demand. Mr Meier said, to become a successful relationship manager or adviser required a good mix of academic accomplishment, interests that covered a wide spread of activities and an outgoing personality. Also, being presentable and able to articulate well with confidence were important attributes. While each relationship manager or adviser generally looks after several clients, they must be able to deal with each client and their assets as a single individual. For clients who prefer to manage their own portfolios, relationship managers need to provide advice, analysis and execution. He said there were situations where clients who had good relationships with their advisers were urging them to move to banks with transparent balance sheets, strong liquidity and high institutional ratings. Ravi Raju, Deutsche Bank head of Private Wealth Management, Asia-Pacific, said while the past year had been challenging for the wealth management industry, Deutsche Bank continued to see opportunities serving the enterprise and personal wealth needs of Asia's expanding list of wealthy individuals. 'Private bankers have the opportunity to prove themselves, by providing the best advice to achieve client objectives in the current market while managing risks in client portfolios. The challenge will be to encourage clients not to completely avoid risk altogether because that is probably not in their long-term interest,' Mr Raju said. Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management appointed several strategic senior hires earlier this year to strengthen the foundation of its business and respond to changing clients' needs. Enid Yip, Bank Sarasin chief executive Asia, also believes turmoil in the financial services industry has created opportunities for pure-play private banks. 'Development may have slowed but the potential remains enormous. The private banking industry in Asia is also benefiting from global trends - growth is not simply driven by Asia for Asia. Smaller managers are benefiting from the wall of cash moving around the world,' Ms Yip said. However, the recent and ongoing events in the financial sector, especially the focus on transparency, means many investors are suspicious of the business models of integrated banks. 'Clients believe that banks have a natural bias towards selling their own products to drive revenues - whether these are investment banking products or funds, taking into account that some private banks have large asset management divisions,' Ms Yip said. 'Retail, commercial and universal banks are experiencing a crisis in client confidence that will not be easy to address. The greatest asset of private banks in these challenging times is trust. And niche, pure-play private banks have retained this quality. It is all about client focus. You hear about synergies, but synergies are generally not about clients, they are for shareholders,' Ms Yip said. She said high-net-worth individuals and family offices were worried about how their assets were managed, while wealth managers were looking for a secure working environment where they could focus on the core principles of private banking. 'We are seeing a flight to security from clients and from relationship managers. As trusted advisers, seasoned wealth managers have the same concerns as clients, and we have found that these exceptional, experienced professionals are interested in joining Bank Sarasin,' she said. 'These are just the type of advisers that clients want now. Clients want someone who has been through several financial crises already. Someone who has experience in weathering a No10 storm,' Ms Yip said.