Over the years, the banking industry in our region has changed significantly, especially when it comes to the high-net-worth (HNW) individual sector. First of all, the number of HNW individuals in the region increased dramatically over the past decade. The amount of wealth that is held by HNW individuals in regional terms has also increased. Many of the regional commercial banks have started paying attention to these facts and developed private banking platforms to cater to HNW individuals. The international banks covered the region for many years with suitcase bankers. However, in recent years they have set up offices with teams of bankers on the ground. Bahrain used to be the hub of the offshore industry, but now the DIFC seems to have taken the lead and has attracted a larger number of banks to the region. We work to offer a service that is similar in terms of quality to an international private banking boutique. However, we book the business locally and are committed to a long-term presence with local understanding. These things set us apart from the international banks. We have our own custody platform through which assets are booked, while if the client works with international banks the money would need to be sent overseas to international booking centers based in jurisdictions such as Switzerland, the UK, or even Singapore.
In private banking, size matters in the sense that the world has become increasingly complicated. IT capabilities, controlling, and reporting are much more expensive and complex. Financial markets have become more complex, and with globalization a bank has to be much more active on the markets, not just in Europe but in Asia as well. To have the capacity to handle this, a bank needs to be a certain size and have the right knowledge and people to preserve and capture wealth, and of course always be aware of how the environment is changing. There are a combination of factors to consider when deciding who you can really trust with your wealth. We have to be very active, and we are doing that through sophisticated IT management. We have developed our own tools, which we manage entirely internally for ultimate security. The banks’ internal systems have historically been closed, but we have opened them up to our clients. Even if we ultimately make the decisions, the client can always check in on what is going on. It is not a trading platform, but a very sophisticated asset management platform, recognized as one of the best in Switzerland. So the first step for us was ease of access to information, and with that came the need for greater client involvement on our part.
Our core focus is private banking because we are a Swiss private bank. Our tag line is “Sustainable Swiss private banking since 1841,” and especially in today’s times this motto has really helped us grow our business and gain client confidence. In addition to the conventional private banking offering, we have expanded our offering in the last year by launching family office services as well as a comprehensive Islamic wealth management offering for our clients. In addition, we also provide value-added services to our clients via our associate Alpen Capital, which provides investment banking advisory services. I feel this model really works as the investment banking advisory business of Alpen Capital adds value to the private banking business of Sarasin-Alpen. We have a comprehensive Islamic Wealth Management platform based on sharia principles. We also have our very own Sharia Board that is responsible for reviewing and monitoring our Islamic offering. It is an essential offering, as many of our Arab clients, who form 70-80% of our customer base, often want a sharia-compliant structure. We launched our services based on extensive client demand and we are one of the only Swiss private banks to have such a comprehensive offering.
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