Historically, private banking has been viewed as a very exclusive niche that only caters to HNWIs with liquidity over $2 million, though it is now possible to open private banking accounts with as little as $250,000 for private investors. An institution’s private banking division provides services such as wealth management, savings, inheritance, and tax planning for their clients. For private banking services clients pay either based on the number of transactions, the annual portfolio performance or a “flat-fee”, usually calculated as a yearly percentage of the total investment amount.
“Private” also alludes to bank secrecy and minimizing taxes through careful allocation of assets, or by hiding assets from the taxing authorities. Swiss and certain offshore banks have been criticized for such cooperation with individuals practicing tax evasion. Although tax fraud is a criminal offense in Switzerland, tax evasion is only a civil offence, not requiring banks to notify taxing authorities.
In Switzerland, there are many banks providing private banking services. Since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Switzerland has remained neutral until now, including the time of two World Wars. After World War I, the former nobles of Austro-Hungarian Empire moved their assets to Switzerland for fear of confiscation by new governments. During World War II, many wealthy people, including Jewish families and institutions, moved their assets into Switzerland to protect them from Nazi Germany. However, this transfer of wealth into Switzerland had mixed and controversial results, as beneficiaries had difficulties retrieving their assets after the war. After World War II, in east Europe, assets were again moved into Switzerland for fear of confiscation by communistic governments. Today, Switzerland remains the largest offshore center, with about 27 percent ($2.0 trillion) of global offshore wealth in 2009, according to Boston Consulting Group. (Offshore wealth is defined as assets booked in a country where the investor has no legal residence or tax domicile)
In England, private banks were established in the 17th century, in parallel with the development of agriculture, managing the assets of the royal family, nobility and the landed gentry.
The United States has one of the largest private banking systems in the world, in part due to the 3.1 million HNWIs accounting for 28.6% of the global HNWIs population in 2010, according to the co-research of Capgemini and Merrill Lynch. Some American banks that specialize in private banking date back to the 19th century, such as U.S. Trust (founded in 1853) and Northern Trust (founded in 1889).
“Best private banking services overall 2016”. This table displays results of one category of the private banking ranking.
|Rank 2016||Company||Rank 2015|
UBS took the top spot in Euromoney’s 2016 survey for “Best private banking services overall 2016.
Most private banks define their value proposition along one or two dimensions, and meet the basic needs across others. Some of the dimensions of value proposition of a private bank are parent brand, one-bank approach, unbiased advice, strong research and advisory team and unified platform. Many banks leverage the “parent brand” to gain a client’s trust and confidence. These banks have a strong presence across the globe and present private bank offerings as a part of the parent group. “One Bank approach” is where private banks offer an integrated proposition to meet clients personal and business needs. Since private banking concerns understanding a client’s need and risk appetite, and tailoring the solution accordingly, few banks define their value proposition along this dimension. Most modern private banks follow an open product platform, and hence claim their advice is unbiased. They believe there is no incentive to push proprietary products, and the client gets the best of what they offer. A few banks claim to have a “strong advisory team” that reflects in the products they offer the client. A couple of banks also define their value proposition on their unified platform, their ability to comply with all regulations, yet serve the client without restrictions.