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Smartphones have taken over, haven’t they? You can’t go anywhere anymore, public or private, without someone tapping away on one, or photographing or Facebooking or Instagramming or watching a video or reading the news. ‘Digitalisation’ is booming, without an end in sight. Julius Baer is no exception: the private bank continues to digitize operations, most recently with a software platform its relationship managers use to, well, manage relationships.

What private banking is all about
This has always been one of the bank’s two key functions: maintaining a personal connection between its staff and its customers. The other has been to deeply understand wealth management, how to protect, make and invest money over generations. But while there are still only 24 hours in a day, less of those are now available to the key functions, because more are taken for compliance with regulations. Implementing laws such as the European Union’s Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) or its Swiss equivalent, the Financial Services Act (FinSA), can demand as much as one-third of a relationship manager’s time. Reclaiming some of these hours is a key reason for creating DiAS. It automates a whole lot of tapping, scrolling and clicking previously done by hand. 

Keeping everything straight
DiAS also straightens processes that otherwise can be tangled. Imagine a client domiciled in Hong Kong, residing in the UK, whose relationship manager is in Switzerland and transactions are cleared in Guernsey. What securities can be bought, where must they be reported, what documentation is required, what are the tax implications? Even for clients with simple circumstances, these questions can be challenging. In any event, getting answers and making sure those are followed without failures, can be delegated to DiAS. It’s complex, yes, and just the sort of busywork that suits computers, leaving more time for the relationship manager and the client to contemplate the much bigger queries: which securities to buy and sell, and when? And DiAS helps here, too. Based on each client’s profile and portfolio, it generates investment ideas that can be pursued.

Buenos DiAS
The software, which has been rolling out across the bank since 2017, was created in-house at Julius Baer. “This technology is too critical to our operations to be left to an outsider,” notes the sponsor of the development team, Nicolas de Skowronski, Head of Advisory Solutions. The bank wanted not just great software, but a better mastery of ‘agile’ development and cutting-edge tools. At times the team touted as many as 100 members, whose work was long and hard. “They were under great pressure with tough deadlines,” de Skowronski adds. “I’ve lost count of the number of late-night pizzas required to keep them going.”

A systematic system
At the end emerged a system that navigates regulations, automates administration and helps with investment advice. It consolidates and goes beyond previous systems, bringing Baer to the forefront of digitalisation. For now, DiAS is invisible to customers – they just benefit from its effects. In future, says de Skowronski, DiAS’s descendants will become visible, and they will be focused less on administration and more on information. Its importance can hardly be underestimated: according to a 2018 survey by accountant/consultant EY, just over half of Swiss banks believe that ‘digitalisation will fundamentally revolutionize the financial services industry’. Another 43% say that digitalisation will be very important, and only 5% think the effects of digitalisation are ‘overrated’. Digitalisation is here to stay, and Julius Baer will be right in the thick of it.

Video production: Fabio Kobel / Scott McNamara

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