Final Word 2019: Monique Chan, BMO Private Bank

Monique Chan, CEO, BMO Private Bank Asia shares her views with Asian Private Banker in ‘The Final Word’, a year in review by the region’s private banking leaders as they share their thoughts and opinions on key issues around industry trends, business performance, investments, regulations, and technology.

Industry Trends | What is the single biggest challenge and the single biggest growth opportunity for your business today?

One of the key ongoing challenges that many private banks are facing is how to best use and invest in technology and digital solutions to meet compliance requirements and streamline processes, while maintaining a positive and consistent client experience.

In terms of growth, with BMO’s 200 year history, we continue to have success working with multigenerational families who want to preserve their wealth and pass on their legacy to future generations. With our collective strength in both Asia and North America, we are well positioned to provide clients with coordinated, multi-jurisdictional advice for wealth planning. Trust and succession planning solutions are provided by our bank-owned trust company in Asia, with our 80-year old trust business in North America providing onshore support and access to a global network of resources. Additionally, as many of our clients are entrepreneurs and business owners with diversified global interests, they see the value in our ability to take an integrated, one- bank approach that harnesses the strength of the group in capital markets, corporate banking, and asset management.

Business Performance | Productivity and efficiency matter more than ever in this environment. Over the past year, what key steps have you taken to improve both the productivity and efficiency of the business and, to date, what has been the impact?

One of our key initiatives is to simplify and automate processes which will not only improve productivity and efficiency but also enhance the client experience. We have been focusing on further refining our client onboarding process, as well as upgrading our client portal. We continue to streamline our product due diligence process, as well as credit procedures to help improve efficiency. We are developing digital tools to help our relationship managers access key client data more easily so they can provide proactive and customised advice to their clients.

Investments | What are the key investment themes that your private banking will focus on in 2020?

During times of heightened volatility and uncertainty, investors can often lose sight of long term goals and only focus on short term market movements. We always emphasise to our clients the importance of portfolio diversification and asset allocation. We need to be diligent in understanding their investment objectives and risk appetite and how these relate to their overall wealth planning and wealth preservation goals.

We expect to see continued interest in alternatives such as private equity, venture capital, and real estate, as clients look for investment opportunities which are less correlated to traditional long-only asset classes. Sectors such as healthcare, clean technology, and AI can provide some interesting opportunities. We are committed to helping clients achieve their sustainability objectives through responsible investing and ESG. BMO is a pioneer in responsible investing, having launched Europe’s first social and environmentally screened portfolio in 1984. We currently have US$4.2 billion in responsible funds.

Regulations | How has your private bank responded to regulators’ increased emphasis on building proper banking culture?

BMO has always placed the highest of priorities on cultivating and sustaining a robust culture which supports prudent risk management and is shaped by values such as integrity and responsibility. The capital strength and financial stability of BMO is largely attributable to this strong culture which underpins everything we do. In this regard, we continue to enhance our compliance and governance framework, promote best practices, and implement a remuneration structure with a multi-level, multi-criteria assessment and approval mechanism across the bank and in line with regulator’s expectations. We believe that instilling the right culture and values amongst management and staff, and putting clients’ interests at the forefront, will lead to positive client experiences and high ethical standards in the industry.

Technology | If we can agree that effective private banking relies on banks having a deep understanding of client needs and behaviours, how are you leveraging tech and data to deepen this understanding?

Today’s technology makes it much easier to consolidate and analyse data which can help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of our clients’ requirements and behaviours. We are leveraging this technology to enable our relationship managers to provide tailored investment advice backed by data on clients’ product preferences, risk profile, and suitability. While these digital tools can add value by providing useful analysis and insights, personal interaction remains the most important way to develop relationships with clients, earn their trust, and gain a complete understanding of their investment objectives and wealth management needs.

Meet 2019’s industry leaders in the full round up of of Asian Private Banker‘s The Final Word 2019.


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