High-net-worth (HNW) individuals tend to have more complex financial needs than most retail consumers. Fortunately, private banks offer a wide swath of services under one roof, such as investment management, traditional banking, and trust and estate planning. HNW clients are typically assigned a dedicated private banker (a.k.a. relationship manager), who offers a single point of contact that simplifies communications.

Key Takeaways

  • High-net-worth individuals tend to have more complex financial needs than most retail consumers.
  • Private banks offer a wide swath of services under one roof, such as investing, traditional banking, and trust and estate planning.

Europe and the United States are home to the majority of the world's biggest private banking operations. Here are some of the most prominent ones, according to the market research firm Scorpio Partnership:

The Private Banking Top 10 List

10. BNP Paribas (Estimated assets under management: $437 billion)

Headquartered in Paris, BNP Paribas Wealth Management claims to be the top private bank in the Euro Zone. It boasts a presence in 21 different countries, with hubs in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. A staff of 7,000 members provides private clients with high-touch banking and investment solutions.

9. Goldman Sachs (Estimated assets under management: $458 billion)

While Goldman Sachs is best known for its investment banking prowess, it also services HNW clients. Its private banking arm boasts some 700 employees, a number former CEO Lloyd Blankfein projected will climb 30% by 2020.

8. J.P. Morgan (Estimated assets under management: $526 billion)

J.P. Morgan was one of the first banks to tailor its investment advice to the HNW base 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: $530 billion)

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 Scorpio Partnership. And in the following year, Citi was named "Best Global Private Bank" at the PWM/The Banker Global Private Banking Awards.

6. Credit Suisse (Estimated assets under management: $792 billion)

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

5. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) (Estimated assets under management: $908 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 finance experts for help with everything from investment management and tax advice to estate planning and philanthropic initiatives.

4. Wells Fargo (Estimated assets under management: $1.899 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: $2.206 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.

2. Morgan Stanley (Estimated assets under management: $2.223 trillion)

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: $2.404 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.