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How to survive as a Private Banker?

Becoming a Private Banker is extremely difficult.  The entry barriers are high.  You need to have the network or a portfolio of high net worth clients with a tens to few hundred millions net worth.  Besides that, you will need to be a competent banker with sophisticated knowledge in banking, wealth management & investments.

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So after going through an arduous journey, and setting foot in Private Banking, 50% of Private Bankers still quit in 21 months.  How do you survive as a Private Banker?

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Sometimes you just wish you are:

  • In a suitable Private Bank
  • Be under a powerful Senior Private Banker
  • Have strong clients support
  • Have very wealthy clients
  • Have very supportive friends and network
  • Have the midas touch in investments
  • And a very friendly financial market

The circumstances, would almost never happen.  So how do you survive as a Private Banker?


No. 1 Plan Your AUM

A Private Banker is measured by the AUM size.  So if you have committed $150 Million, $250 Million or $500 Million book size, and you are falling short because of various reasons, planning your AUM is very important to your survival.

  • Do you gather as much AUM as possible quickly?
  • Do you bring in your AUM only at the last moment?
  • How do you plan your incoming AUM?

The following content would not be relevant if you are not having any problems in acquiring AUM. Read More: 12 Reasons why most clients do not give Private Banker AUM within 6 Months


No. 2 Decide an AUM Strategy

Young Private Banker
Young Private Banker

Doing your best isn’t enough.  If your target is $500 Million over 3 years, bringing in $50 Million in the first month and nothing for the next 1 year is bound to get you fired.

As a Private Banker, it is either you are meeting the targets or you are on the under-performing list.

Having an AUM strategy helps you to figure out how to bring in AUM at the right timing, in the best interests of clients, and to satisfy your bosses enough to keep your job.

Common strategy:

  • Should you bring all your AUM in one go?
  • Should you stagger the AUM acquisition over 3 years?
  • Should you only open Account and not fund the AUM?
  • Should you test a few Account?
  • Should you acquire only new clients, and keep your existing supportive clients away?

Which strategy would give you the best chance of survival?  The best way to gauge: Look at how your senior management are treating the new or underperforming Private Bankers.


No. 3 Managing Expectations

Telling your boss you are doing fine means you don’t need help.  Telling your boss you are doing not ok means getting extra surveillance.  Both ways, you are at the losing end.

On the other hand, if you are doing fine, it means you can do better, and you might be given extra help in clients’ acquisition.

If you are not doing well, and you have good managers, they may feel that you are responsible and would try to help you.

Managing expectations may or may not help you, but if you don’t try, your chances of surviving remains, the same.


No. 4 Manage Client’s Expectations

Relationship Manager with Family
Relationship Manager with Family

Things are not always going to work out well.  So you want to manage client’s expectations.

You wouldn’t want to join your new Private Bank and open 30 accounts in 6 months and to realise that the Private Bank isn’t so suitable for yourself and your clients.  And there you will be struggling to decide if you should stay or leave.

Stay, and you could jeopardise your relationship with clients.  Leave and your clients will be infuriated with your career move.

And since you hired not because your hirers appreciate you, but they appreciate your clients’ money, it is important to place your clients’ interests first.

This may backfire too.  This overly prudent approach may cost you to lose great opportunities to firmly secure your job and AUM growth.

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No. 4 Gunning for Big Accounts / AUM

If your target is $200 Million over 3 years, working on ten $20 Million accounts is going to be difficult.  It is much easier to get one or two big clients who are able to give you $100 Million to $200 Million AUM.

It may or may not come in.  But if you are attempting for the big accounts & AUM, your bosses would be “happy” with your ambition.  They may provide you additional support.  Plus, if you get the account open, it is an extra lead to your Private Bank, if you are not around in the future.  It’s a win-win situation for both.

And since we are talking about a $100 Million or $200 Million account, your bosses will be having a hard time deciding between terminating your services or giving you another 3 months … … during each review.


No. 5 Get Low Quality AUM

Cash Equivalent
Cash Equivalent

All Private Banks and Private Bankers wants quality AUM.  AUM that can be invested & traded, that can ultimately result in generating fees of 0.5% to 2% a year.

Low quality AUM such as deposits, hold-till-maturity debts or equity instruments and large-single-share weigh on the performance of the entire AUM.  Many Private Banks focus on getting rid of such AUM to boost bottom line and increase Return on Assets (ROA).

As these clients don’t rarely use the services of the Private Banks, their Private Banks and Private Bankers would not mind letting go of the AUM.


No. 6 Get Corporate or Institutional Accounts

Corporate & Institutions have large amount of cash.  Apple , General Electric, Microsoft, Google and many other companies held $776 billion offshore, saving them enormous tax.

Read More: In 2012, 15 companies held $776 billion in offshore funding, through 859 tax haven: General Electric, Apple, Pfizer, Microsoft, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, Exxon Mobil, Citigroup, Cisco Systems, Abbott Laboratories, Procter & Gable, Hewlett-Packard, Google and PepsiCo.

Certainly, many banks discourage doing business with United States entities due to sensitive political & tax issues.  But this gives you a glimpse of the massive amount of funds you can tap on in Corporate or Institutional Accounts.

Plus, many of these companies invest into short-term bonds between 1 – 3 years maturity, to generate extra returns.


No. 7 Creating Backup Plans

International Banker
International Banker

You want to survive as a Private Banker, not survive only in your current Private Bank.  You may spend considerable time and a few switches to find the right Private Bank, for your clients and yourself.

This means thinking about how you should preserve and secure your relationship with your clients.


No. 8 Turn to Revenue

When all else fails, turn to revenue generation.  This may not always work, but negotiate a plan with your boss.  If your boss can’t help you, it isn’t worth working for your boss for a long time too.

Since performance of a Private Bank is to monitor AUM growth and revenue growth (ultimately profit), you can’t meet the AUM target, but you could contribute to the revenue target.

AUM, Revenue and your salary have a strong correlation, so it isn’t difficult to estimate the a safe margin of revenue generation.

Annual Salary AUM Expected Revenue* Recommended Revenue
$120,000 $120 M $1 M $600K
$180,000 $200 M $1.5 M $1 M
$250,000 $300 M $2 M $ 1.25 M
$350,000 $400 M $2.5 M $1.8 M
$600,000 $750 M $4 M $2.25 M


The expected revenue are usually non-applicable in the first or second year.  Which is why generating the revenue may offset the shortfall in AUM.  However, this also means you are not spending time to bring in more AUM, costing lesser AUM acquisition in the longer run.

This isn’t a sure survival strategy.  But if you need some ideas if you are falling short of the AUM, these could help you out in the short run. Read More: 6 Ways to Generate High Revenue

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