High-net-worth individuals tend to have more complex financial needs than most retail consumers. That's why private banks offer a range of services under one roof, from investment management to trust and estate planning. Wealthy clients are typically assigned a dedicated private banker (or relationship manager), who is a single point of contact for all financial matters.

Key Takeaways

  • Most of these companies have a strong Main Street presence but separate divisions cater to high-net-worth individuals.
  • Wealthy individuals with large deposits get white-glove services for their financial needs.
  • Investment advice, taxes, and estate planning are among the services offered.

Europe and the United States are home to most of the world's biggest private banking operations. Most will be familiar names as they also offer banking services for the rest of us.

Below are the most prominent private bankers, according to the market research firm Scorpio Partnership. The figures for assets under management are for the entire company, not the division, as of October 2020.

The Private Banking Top 10 List

10. BNP Paribas (Estimated assets under management: $377 billion)

Headquartered in Paris, BNP Paribas Wealth Management claims to be the top private bank in the Euro Zone. It has a presence in 19 countries, with hubs in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the U.S. Its staff of 7,000 provides private clients with high-touch banking and investment solutions.

9. Goldman Sachs (Estimated assets under management: $1.85 trillion)

While Goldman Sachs is best known for its investment banking activities, it also services high-net-worth clients. Customers are generally required to invest at least $10 million to open an account.

8. J.P. Morgan (Estimated assets under management: $2.89 trillion)

J.P. Morgan was one of the first banks to tailor its investment advice to the wealthy and was one of the first operations to hire a dedicated chief investment officer (CIO) for its private banking desk. Today, this U.S. bank offers an "integrated client coverage" model that comprises bankers, investment professionals, capital advisors, and fiduciary managers.

7. Citibank (Estimated assets under management: $1.95 trillion)

Another Wall Street wirehouse that customizes its services for the ultra-wealthy, Citi Private Bank increased its assets by more than 17% in 2017, according to Aon. In 2018 and 2019, Citi was named "Best Global Private Bank" at the PWM/The Banker Global Private Banking Awards.

6. Credit Suisse (Estimated assets under management: $787.3 billion)

In addition to its investment banking presence, Credit Suisse's private bank's wealth management services have helped the institution win significant market share in the flourishing Asia-Pacific region.

5. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) (Estimated assets under management: $503 billion)

RBC, Canada’s largest financial institution, employs a team approach to private banking that connects each HNW client with both a private banker and a credit specialist. Those points of contact, in turn, draw on a larger team of financial advisors for help with everything from investment management and tax advice to estate planning and philanthropic initiatives.

4. Wells Fargo (Estimated assets under management: $1.6 trillion)

At San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, relationship managers ritually review their HNW clients' investment portfolios in order to rebalance holdings and make asset allocation changes when necessary.

3. Merrill Lynch (Bank of America Corporation) (Estimated assets under management: $1.4 trillion)

Calling its affluent customers "a key and expanding part of the firm's client base," Merrill Lynch recently announced plans to consolidate its private banking, international, and institutional groups into a single unit that aims to streamline operations and better serve the needs of its ultra-wealthy clients.

Most private banks impose minimum income thresholds. The minimum at Goldman Sachs is $10 million.

2. Morgan Stanley (Estimated assets under management: $552 billion)

At Morgan Stanley, a private wealth advisor functions as the gateway to a broad team of experts, including investment bankers, capital market professionals, and private bankers, who collectively handle a spectrum of needs including trust and estate planning and insurance products.

1. UBS (Estimated assets under management: $1.4 trillion)

With a whopping $2.4 trillion in assets under management, UBS edges out Morgan Stanley as the world's largest private banking group. The firm recent consolidated its U.S. wealth management unit with its international operation in an effort to bolster its position as the industry leader, according to group CEO Sergio Ermotti, who declared: "[This merger] will mean improved efficiency, more sharing of best practices, greater returns on our investments, and enhanced client service."

The Bottom Line

Demand among affluent customers for highly personalized banking services and one-stop shopping has been a boon to the private banking industry. Banks headquartered in the U.S. and Europe have enjoyed a disproportionate share of that growth, with Swiss-based UBS leading the pack.