Singapore private bankers are no longer jet-setters

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Singapore private bankers are no longer jet-setters

Private bankers, traditionally among the most well-travelled finance professionals in Singapore, may never return to their jet-setting ways, even as Singapore reopens its skies.

The old assumption that relationship managers could only discuss sensitive subjects with clients in person has now been turned on its head by the pandemic, Joseph Poon, group head of DBS Private Bank, told the Business Times.

“Wealth planning means talking about a client's eventual death, succession and family. Everyone thought the only way to get a conversation going was face to face. But we have very strong relationships. We also created virtual meeting rooms; we were very fast, and intimacy was not lost,” he said.

Moreover, pandemic travel restrictions didn’t impact clients based overseas from discussing their portfolios and wealth planning thanks to DBS’s “advanced digital platform” that facilitated virtual meetings.

Other private banks also stepped up their virtual client communications and invested in digital product platforms in 2020/2021, says a former private banker, now working as a headhunter. “Private banking will always be a high-touch sector, but it’s increasingly the case that RMs can effectively communicate virtually,” he added.

As we reported last month, private banks in Singapore are boosting their digital product teams to meet growing demand for online services from the younger generation of wealthy individuals, often entrepreneurs or the children of business founders. Credit Suisse, has an APAC private banking app, for example, which gives rich clients access to portfolios and market news.

As banks invest in client-focused tech, it’s unlikely that Singapore private bankers will be flying to meet clients across Asia as regularly as they did pre-pandemic, even as Singapore relaxes its travel restrictions. Singapore fully reopened its borders to all vaccinated travellers on April 1.

“Business travel will return, yes, but clients have got used to meeting their relationship managers online, and banks have got used to saving money on travel. So I don’t think they’ll be travelling as much as they did in 2019 and before,” says the headhunter.

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