High-net-worth individuals, by nature, tend to have more complex financial goals than the average consumer. With private banking, they receive help in a range of areas – from traditional banking needs to investment and trust services – under a single roof. Clients also benefit from having a dedicated private banker who coordinates all these services and simplifies the communication process.
Today, many banks around the world – both large and small – offer income-dependent banking services to customers who meet their income requirements. However, the sector is still dominated by institutions in Europe and the United States. Here are the 10 biggest private banking providers, according to the market research firm Scorpio Partnership.
The Private Banking Top 10 List
10. Pictet (Estimated assets under management: $338 billion)
Oftentimes, large retail banks operate a separate private banking unit that caters to some of their wealthiest customers. In the case of Swiss-based Pictet, however, that’s all they do. Founded in 1805, the bank focuses entirely on high-value clients and large financial institutions. In 2013, it was awarded “Best Private Bank in Europe” by Professional Wealth Management (PWM) and The Banker, both owned by The Financial Times.
9. J.P. Morgan (Estimated assets under management: $361 billion)
Executives here were ahead of the curve in recognizing the need for investment advice tailored specifically toward high net worth clients. J.P Morgan was one of the first banks to hire a dedicated chief investment officer (CIO) for its private banking segment, a move that has clearly paid off. Today, the U.S. bank is the industry leader in equity and fixed income portfolio management, according to the magazine Euromoney.
8. HSBC (Estimated assets under management: $382 billion)
HSBC officially launched its private banking unit after acquiring the assets of Republic National Bank of New York in 1999. Today, it has $382 billion in assets under management, making it the eighth-largest bank of its kind (it slipped two spots from last year’s list). The bank offers clients an array of services that include customized lending solutions and access to alternative investments such as hedge funds and private equity opportunities.
7. Deutsche Bank (Estimated assets under management: $384 billion)
In today’s competitive private banking environment, Germany-based Deutsche Bank has tried to differentiate itself through convenience. It offers “Doorstep Banking,” which allows customers to deposit checks or receive cash at their home, as well as a Global Concierge Assistance to help travelers rent a car or find local hotels. Its private banking services encompass everything from investments to estate planning and exclusive credit cards.
6. BNP Paribas Fortis (Estimated assets under management: $395 billion)
Headquartered in Belgium, BNP Paribas Fortis Private Banking serves individuals with assets in excess of 250,000 euros. While it has a considerable footprint in countries like France, Italy and Luxembourg, the bank also a presence in the U.S. and Asia. It was voted “Best Private Bank in Europe” in 2014 by PWM/The Banker.
5. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) (Estimated assets under management: $673 billion)
RBC, Canada’s largest financial institution, offers an assortment of exclusive services – from estate planning consultations to specialized credit solutions – to attract wealthy clients to its private banking segment. It also offers a special Private Banking credit card targeted toward the needs of upper-income clients.
4. Credit Suisse (Estimated assets under management: $888 billion)
Like many private banks, the one at Credit Suisse offers investment solutions as well as specialized wealth management services. But it’s hoping to gain market share by catering to the unique needs of underserved clients. The bank recently opened up a “New Markets” division that focuses on affluent women; minorities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients.
3. Morgan Stanley (Estimated assets under management: $1.454 trillion)
In recent years, Morgan Stanley has been quietly bulking up its private banking operations, which includes hiring top wealth managers from its competitors. The bank saw assets under management swell 17.5% in 2013, the fastest growth of any institution in the top 10.
2. Merrill Lynch (Bank of America Corporation) (Estimated assets under management: $1.866.6 trillion) [
The largest private bank in the United States, Merrill Lynch Private Banking & Investment Group is now part of Bank of America. BOA purchased Merrill Lynch in the first quarter of 2009, in the wake of the financial meltdown in 2008.
1. UBS (Estimated assets under management: $1.966.9 trillion)
Managing nearly $2 trillion in assets, UBS edges out Merrill Lynch as the largest private banking group in the world. But the Swiss bank has more going for it than just size. It also ranked highest in customer satisfaction among private banking and wealth management providers, according to a 2014 Euromoney survey.
The Bottom Line
Demand among affluent customers for highly personalized banking services has been a boon to private banking over the past couple years. Banks headquartered in the U.S. and Europe have enjoyed a disproportionate share of that growth, with Swiss-based UBS continuing to lead the pack.
If private banking seems the right choice for your needs, research prospective banks carefully, including the fees involved. Then decide whether the services are worth what you will pay for them compared to what your current bank and broker(s) or financial advisor(s) charge. Don't forget to factor in the convenience of one-stop shopping, however, as well as the skills of the financial professionals to which you plan to entrust your funds and the resources of the institution that will hold them. Cost is just one element to consider when deciding what makes the most sense for you.
For more on these questions, see Asset Protection For High Net Worth Individuals and Under what circumstances would I require private wealth management?