After joining Julius Baer at the beginning of 2020 as Head Intermediaries Americas, Alexandre Berger has a mandate to forge strong partnerships with the continent’s sophisticated intermediaries. He is differentiating the bank through high-quality service delivered across the full range of expertise.
Can you describe the state of the intermediary sector in Latin America. Is it growing? Are there any other notable trends?
Alexandre Berger: “Over the past decade, the annual growth rate of global wealth throughout Latin America has been one of the most dynamic worldwide. Wealth will continue to expand rapidly in the continent over the next years. The intermediary segment as a whole, however, has a relatively small share of the global assets in Latin America. That constitutes an opportunity for intermediaries, and high-profile bankers continue to leave international banks to become entrepreneurs.
“At Julius Baer, we aim to be at the forefront of capturing this growth, by categorizing both intermediaries and the Americas, respectively, as a strategic sector and region. We want to create solid, long-term partnerships with high-end intermediaries in selected markets who share our business values, such as the highest ethical and compliance standards, an efficient and transparent consultative process and fee structure, or a highly skilled team of professionals.
“Intermediaries are particularly valued by Latin American clients. They have a geographical and cultural proximity to their clients, servicing them locally, whether managing onshore assets, offshore assets, or both. By working with Julius Baer, intermediaries can offer a combination of their local expertise and the stability of a solid Swiss financial institution that delivers high-quality service. Indeed we at Julius Baer are providing our clients with best-in-class service, technology and relevant content, designed to support them in delivering superior advisory services in a structured and transparent way directly to their clients.”
How are the needs of Latin American intermediaries and their clients changing?
“We clearly see a convergence towards the same needs as clients from other parts of the world. Globalisation, interconnection, and younger generations travelling and studying in the US or Europe contribute to that convergence. One topic that remains a characteristic in Latin America, however, is the transfer of family wealth to younger generations. At Julius Baer, we meet that need with a first-class wealth planning service. Additionally, while human interaction and personalised service remains of utmost importance, the need for innovative and reliable technology is accelerating. Besides our state-of-the-art Baer Online Intermediaries platform dedicated to intermediaries, we have developed an algorithm to help them predict asset flows they can expect from their clients. This is how we want to build on our well recognized brand, impeccable service, and targeted offering: to provide our clients with innovative solutions to help them bring their business forward.
“Latin American clients traditionally book their assets in either the US or Switzerland. There’s a significant difference in the service level, investments offering, technology and fee structure between the two booking centers. The US banks generally provide a very basic service. In Switzerland, clients enjoy a personalised service, a broad multi-currency investment offering, high-end technology like our Baer-Online platform dedicated to intermediaries, and transparent fees.”
Is there a trend towards consolidation through mergers in the region?
“Yes, especially in larger countries like Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, we see that trend of consolidation, of entrepreneurial spirit, of creating larger companies, higher levels of sophistication, as well as higher expectations from the bank they work with. However, it depends on the market. We also see some smaller markets where this is not happening.”
What is your strategy? Do you want to end up with fewer bigger clients who are true partners?
“Instead of bigger, I would say more sophisticated, because we are looking for long-term partnerships. We are not really interested in being treated as a commodity, just a platform. Some intermediaries work with US banks or US custodians, for example, and we note that they receive very basic services. So, this is not where we want to compete. We want to forge solid partnerships. We are promoting quality over quantity spanning the full range of our broad offering, even including guidance about risk management, legal and compliance issues. Using this approach, we want to build stronger partnerships with our intermediaries, creating a climate of trust, mutual understanding and excellence. In turn, this should enable them to strengthen their relationship with their clients and to attract new prospects.
“Just as our CEO says that we want to be the most reputable and admired brand in wealth management, I can say that our ambition in Intermediaries Americas is to be the Swiss bank of reference for Intermediaries in this continent".