Private banking provides similar services to corporate and retail banking – except that their clients are high net-worth individuals. That is, private banks deal exclusively with very wealthy people. Private banking differs from retail banking in that its services are more bespoke to the individual and rather than mass market. These include lending, deposits, investment management and fund management, pensions, and tax management and planning (especially inheritance tax).
Many leading banking institutions offer private banking (or wealth management). However, traditionally private banks have been privately owned, with certain individuals having unlimited liability for the bank’s commitments. This means that if, for example, a bank loses money, these individuals will be personally financially responsible for meeting its debts. A great number of these banks are in Switzerland.
What will I do?
As this is a smaller banking sector, career paths can be quite flexible, although you are still likely to join a graduate scheme. If you join the private banking arm of a global banking organisation, you may join a specific private banking scheme or join a more general one and specialise later.
A typical entry position is an assistant role and you may undertake a variety of rotations in specific areas, such as investments. Once you’ve completed a graduate scheme, you can become a junior private banker. The initial emphasis in your training and in your first position will be on developing relationships with and facilitating transactions for clients. In time, you will gain your own clients. Working within the private banking division of a large organisation, you will find yourself liaising with other teams and divisions.
Many banking institutions will not require a numerate degree – although they will expect you to have achieved at least a 2.1. However, do check specific employers’ recruitment literature, as some may specify particular degrees. Your employer will inform you if they require you to take a particular professional qualification to work in a certain area.
As in corporate banking, to do well in private banking you need to combine good numerical sense with great interpersonal skills. You need to be able to communicate with clients and advise them on the best course of action. This can involve explaining the reasons behind certain actions. Problem-solving and analytical skills are always useful in a private banking role. Plus, a confident but not arrogant manner never goes amiss.