24 April 2020 |

Braving the storm (Part 2): PBs share success in digital advisory during pandemic

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Where some countries in Asia have imposed mandatory work from home (WFH) conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, digital tools have become essential. Private banks with sophisticated client-facing technologies are flexing their capabilities with even more frequent client interactions and ongoing enhancements. Asian Private Banker spoke to operational leaders at four private banks who all agreed that early investment in digital transformation pays off with a significant uptake of client engagement during tough times.

BNP Paribas WM: Stronger client interest in digital advisory app

Long Doan, BNP Paribas Wealth Management

“In time of extreme market volatility, the quality of advice and the speed of execution are of paramount importance in order to protect our clients’ wealth and at the same time allowing them to seize opportunities,” Long Doan, APAC chief operating officer, BNP Paribas Wealth Management told Asian Private Banker.

“We see a much stronger interest from clients to use our new digital advisory apps (MyAdvisory), and a continuous increase in the traffic on our integrated e-banking platform (MyWealth).”

Since the virus outbreak, the bank has actively organised “non-traditional market updates” using webinars and audio conferences, so that clients can directly interact with the bank’s CIO and market experts.

BNP Paribas WM rolled out its digital tool kit, including MyAdvisory, in Asia in 2017. Doan said the digitalisation efforts come at the right time for building greater employee and client engagement.

“Thanks to the excellent support from our IT team and their ability to upgrade our infrastructure in record time, we have been able to support our people to effectively WFH, and not at all stay at home,” he said.

“This is all the more remarkable because all RMs who WFH are able to access their IT tools with full functionality and without any negative productivity impact, in a context of buoyant financial markets and surging trading volumes in the last months. We have been providing effective and easy-to-use communication tools for our employees, and I can say that this is probably the part that people appreciate the most.”

Doan added that the COVID-19 outbreak provides an opportunity to test the agility and efficiency of these solutions, and with timely support from the IT team, the bank has been able to maintain business as usual in markets such as Singapore and India, where more than 85% of staff need to WFH.

Looking ahead, he said social distancing and split teams will become the new normal, even after the pandemic. In particular, the bank has been broadening its application of electronic signatures and remote approval function.

Credit Suisse PB: Being digitally ready has prepared us for all conditions

Credit Suisse Private Banking has been working on its digital transformation since 2015 with the launch of Digital Private Banking platform (DPB platform) in Singapore. The bank continued its digital journey with the launch of CS Chat, and CS Invest. In November last year, the bank was rolling out self-service capabilities across its tech platforms made available to APAC clients.

Werner Schlossmacher, Credit Suisse Private Banking

“The continued investments into the digital journey over the years and throughout different phases has prepared us well over the last few months,” Werner Schlossmacher, managing director, APAC Platform Management, Credit Suisse told Asian Private Banker.

The transaction volume on the DPB platform has increased by a factor of 2.5, as clients have been able to transact anytime. Client engagement through CS Chat has increased by more than 50%. The DPB platform currently has a 65% adoption rate among eligible clients and client engagement by the platform has increased by over 20% in recent months.

The WFH situation has increased clients’ interest in having an overview of their investment portfolio, which is reflected in a ‘significant increase’ in usage through new sign-ups for Canopy’s account aggregation tool available on CS’ digital platform.

“We have seen significant take-up of usage compared to Q4 last year. Canopy acts as a courier and allows clients to have a more holistic view of their portfolios across different banks,” said Schlossmacher. Clients can use Canopy’s tools to analyse the information about their portfolios across different banks.

Better client engagement in times of trouble
To move further and facilitate clients to invest on the strength of this information, the bank has changed the approach in client engagement by reaching out more frequently via multiple communication channels. For instance, CIO and other experts appeared more frequently in client calls over the last two months to provide up-to-date investment insights.

“We have weekly calls instead of monthly calls and made them more interactive. We have created webinars for our clients to make sure that they can use the holistic information they receive from the bankers, from Credit Suisse Invest, Canopy and other channels.”

Schlossmacher added that CS’ digital strategy has been built for long term development purposes and the direction proved to be the right way, considering that client interactions have been occurring effectively over the past three months even in locations outside the office.

“We didn’t prepare for this specific scenario with our digital journey, but as a digitally ready bank, we had prepared for all scenarios: we have the ability to provide banking services from various places, enabling our bankers to offer advice, and allowing clients to execute their desired choices,” he said.

DBS: Pandemic drives clients and RMs to embrace digitalisation

Digitalisation is a priority for DBS since the bank’s COO aspires for DBS to become the ‘D’ in GANDALF — the other letters representing Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

The Singaporean bank has 76% adoption rate for iWealth — the application created for managing the wealth of clients, ranging from mass affluent to private clients, providing direct execution capabilities in investments according to clients’ risk appetite. The popularity of this application has become a great channel of client interaction at a time of lockdowns.

Joseph Poon, DBS Private Bank

Client engagement up 30% on iWealth
“Volatility has amplified the need for clients to be kept abreast of what’s going on in the market – to this end, we make the most of DBS iWealth to keep them posted on the market and provide timely, relevant insights from our Chief Investment Office,” Joseph Poon, group head of DBS Private Bank told Asian Private Banker.

“Since the start of the year, we have seen a spike in DBS iWealth usage with average log-ins per client rising by over 30%.”

While clients can execute stocks, funds and FX trades with leverage on iWealth, they are advised to turn to their RMs for assistance in trading complex products such as OTC fixed income products, structured notes and bancassurance. RMs are equipped with RM Mobility, which is a tablet solution that serves as an extension of their workstation, allowing RMs to effectively track clients’ portfolios, perform reviews, provide advisory and place investment orders, all whilst working remotely.

According to Poon, as the pandemic has kept most of the population at home, RMs have engaged with clients a lot more using telecommuting tools such as audio or video conferences — be it for conducting trades or to keep them updated about the markets.

“In fact, we are having more strategic discussions with clients these days, as they now have time for comprehensive portfolio reviews,” he said.

“We are having more conversations too about wealth and succession planning, as the virus has prompted a deeper focus on ensuring that one’s family, assets and legacy stay in good hands for the long-term regardless of external shocks.”

Pandemic spurs digital openness
Poon added that the pandemic has sparked a shift, with more clients and RMs coming to embrace digital solutions, and the openness to embrace digital solutions would be a new norm that stays with the industry even after the Covid-19 situation normalises.

“Clients are now more familiar and empowered to take a do-it-yourself approach on DBS iWealth for certain transactions, leaving conversations with RMs for more strategic purposes,” he said.

Because of the pandemic, RMs engaging clients have the opportunity to encourage greater use of telecommuting and other digital tools “thereby driving a collective shift towards acceptance of digital channels and flexible working.”

UBS WM: Transactions on e-trading platform quadrupled in the past three months

Wiwi Gutmannsbauer, UBS

“This COVID outbreak does not make our business “become digital”, it simply has accelerated our plans and helped to make some decisions faster,” Wiwi Gutmannsbauer, COO of UBS Asia Pacific and operating head APAC, UBS Global Wealth Management told Asian Private Banker.

“We have witnessed this acceleration in steep climbs of our client engagement rates in several of our digital offerings. For instance, in the last three months, our E-banking platform’s client login rates have almost doubled, client usage has soared and the number of transactions on the E-trading platform has multiplied by a factor of four.”

Remote workspace launch ahead of schedule
To satisfy the requirement of WFH in various countries, the bank launched UBS Workspace months before its original launch date. UBS Workspace is a platform that enhances employees’ productivity and mobility while meeting all regulatory needs. Close to 4,000 APAC employees have been migrated onto UBS Workspace over the past few weeks and about 90% of the bank’s employees across APAC are currently WFH.

“We are equally attentive to our employees’ work experience and ensure that collaboration can continue, virtually,” said Gutmannsbauer.

“For example, we rolled out digital signatures to evidence internal review and approvals, strengthening efficiency of over 20 processes. This digital solution is a first for UBS GWM globally.”

This heavy reliance on platforms such as UBS E-banking, E-trading, UBS Advisor Messaging (WeChat and Whatsapp) has been put to the test during the current pandemic. Yet, Gutmannsbauer claimed that these platforms continued to run smoothly as usual, thus allowing clients to keep up with information curated to their investment needs.

“During this outbreak, our digital platforms facilitated our investment advisory the same way it does all along. Our hybrid client service model from high-tech to high-touch ensures that there is no compromise to our best-in-class service,” said Gutmannsbauer.

New offerings to clients during recent months include weekly live interactive webinars hosted by the APAC CIO team, remote strategic portfolio reviews with their client advisors (CAs) and the option for CAs to provide proposals through portfolio health check alerts.

APAC has been the first region in UBS GWM to launch Skype Audio and Video Conferencing for CAs and clients.

“Digital is innate and automatic in our business. This is why we do not see our CAs needing to re-learn and adapt to going digital during this outbreak. They are readily equipped in being agile and working flexibly to meet our clients’ needs anytime and anywhere,” said Gutmannsbauer.