What has been the effect of the pandemic on your business and what steps did you have to take to manage risk and facilitate recovery?
Barclays quickly went into a dynamic working scenario, with 70,000 of our colleagues working remotely worldwide; thanks to our tech and infrastructure, we were able to rapidly adapt and carry on business seamlessly. We also saw that clients were suddenly much easier to reach as they weren't traveling, stuck in meetings, or out of the office, resulting in a positive increase in client engagement. In addition, given the volatility in the markets, clients were keen to see how their portfolios were performing. Our bankers and investment specialists were engaging with clients more than ever. Clients from all generations adapted to communicating via technology quickly and continue to enjoy engaging via video calls.
What investment opportunities does the UAE offer Indian investors?
The average UHNW Indian family is spread across India and typically any combination of the UK, the UAE, and Singapore. While Barclays Private Bank operates a fully offshore platform for global Indian clients in the Middle East, we also have a domestic private bank in India servicing clients onshore. Since yields have dropped in India, we have seen Indian clients looking for leverage, which has often been executed by Middle East-underlying banks. We have also seen clients seeking real estate opportunities in the UK.
Have you seen any major changes in investment trends and risk appetite over the last six months?
Clients have remained stable and engaged over the last six months. One of the reasons why clients in UAE choose to bank with Barclays is driven by their strong interest in the UK and/or Europe, often having homes there, looking for property, and with family members studying in those regions. We have not seen any fall in demand for UK or French real estate during this period; in fact, in some cases, demand has increased where clients feel they may be able to buy at a discount. From an investment perspective, our guidance to clients is very clear: be invested, be active, and be diversified. We always recommend being in the market. We do not believe in timing—we believe in averaging—so there is no need to wait, as none of our investment strategies are predicated on waiting for the right time. Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, we have not seen a pullback in assets and are net positive on flows for this year. We have seen an increase in demand for gold and silver, with clients wanting to build these positions. In general, clients have remained pleased and satisfied within their risk set; clients have wanted to remain invested and potentially invest more.
To what extent are you incorporating the trend of sustainable investment in your offerings and services?
This has been a significant focus for us for a long time, led by our Head of Impact Investing based in London. From a client offering perspective, we provide access to sustainable investments through public and private markets, ranging from an ETF solution or access to a private investment. In 2019, I also had the pleasure of hosting the annual roadshow for the region for around 100 clients, where along with our investment views for 2020 we had a special focus on water and energy opportunities. In addition to ESG, conversations with many of our clients also tend to be around legacy and advisory, particularly with COVID-19 sharpening the focus on succession planning and the next generation. Sustainability frequently plays an active role in that. We also have strong philanthropy and wealth advisory practices to help clients with succession and legacy planning. The amount of inter-generational wealth transfer expected for the coming decades is significant, so our holistic offering enables us to work with our clients on the various aspects associated with this.