Bank One’s Guillaume Passebecq, Head of Private Banking & Wealth Management shares insights on Bank One’s approach in wealth management, the private wealth landscape in Mauritius and the crucial role digital channels play in private banking strategy. Below are the excerpts of our interview.
Can you tell us about the efficacy of Bank One’s approach in wealth management?
Guillaume Passebecq: Bank One is a leading Mauritian bank with a regional footprint. Its two shareholders, Mauritian conglomerate CIEL Limited and Kenya-based I&M Holdings, have an extended presence on the African continent and banking operations in Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Our shareholders’ strong footing in Africa grants us easy access to the securities markets in Kenya and Rwanda, positioning us as a favourable bridge to the booming East African market.
With our on-the-ground presence in Africa, a robust custodian network that extends over 50 countries, and with Euroclear as our main depository, all our clients; individuals, external asset managers and financial institutions; have direct access to the deep insights of our local and international experts.
We operate on a total Open Architecture model that offers best-of-breed products from multiple global providers. The collaborative nature of this model allows us to unlock a world of opportunities and deliver a diversified range of local and international solutions, including bonds, equities, ETFs, funds, and structured products. Our primary focus is the protection and growth of our clients’ wealth. Through our Open Architecture model, our clients can choose one or more independent portfolio managers, who will leverage their in-depth knowledge to deliver the desired investment objective.
Moreover, as their custodian bank, we are responsible for the safety of our clients’ securities and assets, which are recorded off-balance sheet. Our depositary, Euroclear – rated AA+ by Fitch Ratings and AA by Standard & Poor’s – is a proven and resilient provider of securities settlements.
At Bank One, we help our clients navigate the complex world of financial services by bringing forth different investment solutions. We offer both Execution Services which allows them to trade directly on all international markets by accessing our extensive network of trading specialists and Discretionary Portfolio Management (DPM) where they are able to choose an expert to oversee their financial assets.
How has the private wealth landscape in Mauritius changed over the last 5 years and what trends are emerging that may not be so apparent?
Guillaume Passebecq: The private wealth industry continues to experience significant challenges and transformation. Over the last 5 years, the industry in Mauritius has gained more exposure to international standards both in terms of pure banking products and services as well as more sophisticated investment solutions. The fact that Mauritius historically attracted and continues to attract foreign investors, is a key element of our business model. We believe that the foreign investors look for a more holistic advisory solution that encompasses their needs across a wide range of financial products and services.
Alignment with international laws and standards has also contributed to make the Mauritian Financial System more transparent and robust. Recent EU decisions are forcing Mauritius to reinvent itself as the industry’s development lies even more on internationalisation and it can adapt to those standards.
Last but not least, the local private wealth landscape has also experienced significant digitalisation efforts in recent years, with the introduction of real-time digital access and a strong custody services offer. HNW customers in particular are looking for a more hybrid approach. They want the best of both worlds as they are not ready to forego the human touch but they are also looking for a bank that can provide them with a complete digital banking experience where advisory can be provided via email or over the phone.
Over the last 5 years, the industry in Mauritius has gained more exposure to international standards both in terms of pure banking products and services as well as more sophisticated investment solutions.
How crucial of a part do digital channels and ecosystems play in Bank ONE’s strategy? What new products and/or services are your customers requesting as a result of COVID-19?
Guillaume Passebecq: From a pure banking perspective, customer behaviour and expectations are constantly evolving. They are expecting a seamless digital banking experience using mobile applications as well as a digitally-driven communication model from their financial service providers. Traditional brick and mortar are, in turn, being converted into greener and more efficient workspaces allowing for a more pleasant interaction with the customer.
Bank One has fully embraced this wave and invested massively in digital channels, as the old paradigm is no longer sufficient to maintain a competitive edge in the market. We have revisited our business strategy and operational model to invest in digital channels such as a revamped Internet Banking platform, a new Mobile Banking application, a full-fledged Custody platform and an E-advisory platform. Our strategy is focused on customer satisfaction and it is in our DNA to evolve with global market changes.
Can you see a silver lining in the midst of the Covid-19 cloud, in terms of handling customer expectations?
Guillaume Passebecq: In every crisis, clients expect more proximity from their banks and a close follow-up of their investments. This period of financial stress has brought forward the resilience of Bank One’s Open Architecture model, as multi-management investment solution can be an efficient way of reducing performance volatility.
The global economy has been experiencing dramatic changes since the fourth quarter of last year. Apart from the bitter effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we also witnessed negative oil prices for the first time ever. Increased ESG-related transformations, such as climate change, are starting to affect peoples’ daily habits.
We believe that the current crisis is changing the mind-set of some investors with greater emphasis on green investment given a fresh focus that looks further into the future. COVID-19 is further accelerating ESG investments, which have seen a steady increase of inflows and better-than-average returns since the beginning of the pandemic. I believe the rationale behind is that the COVID-19 crisis has put the spotlight on vulnerabilities and our dependence on the natural environment.
This crisis has also placed greater emphasis on the security of clients’ assets amidst greater risk and volatility. At Bank One, our primary focus is the protection and growth of client’s wealth and we make sure that their investments are kept off balance sheet with a trusted depository like Euroclear acting as the provider for securities settlements.
Bank One has fully embraced this wave and invested massively in digital channels, as the old paradigm is no longer sufficient to maintain a competitive edge in the market.
As a winner of Best Product Innovation at the Global Private Banking Innovation Awards 2020, what is on your immediate digital innovation wish list for Bank One?
Guillaume Passebecq: We are at a very special moment in history right now and uncertainty around the depth and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced banks to review their current processes and re-invent themselves. More than ever, we have seen that digital transformation is the key to enduring such crisis. Lockdown does not necessarily mean shut down. At Bank One, we have been able to navigate through this crisis and ensure normal banking operations are carried out thanks to the digitalisation of our internal processes.
Bank One has customer satisfaction as one of its core tenets. We believe that we can position ourselves to capitalise on the emergence digital services trend whilst adopting a customer-centric approach to stay true to our values. Digital transformation at Bank One is not a project, it is an ongoing process. It is in our DNA to continuously reassess our processes and platforms in order to meet changing customer needs and market dynamics.