How cross-industry learning can help to sharpen the client focus

“Caring is sharing”, according to the famous proverb. But wait. Isn’t there more to it? We engaged in cross-industry learning with Zurich’s Hirslanden hospital and extracted 10 impulses to re-define ‘care’ in private banking.

“Speak to me as a person, not as a patient”, says Vega Ibañez. Vega is among the group of survivors. In 2014 she got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The journey to reclaim her health would be ardous and began somewhat unexpectedly: “Before discussing my illness, my assigned surgeon freed up his busy schedule to get to know me and my family first.” Only in a second step he began to talk about her medical condition and voiced a requirement Vega still remembers very well today: She would have to fully trust her medical team. The conversation moved on to her treatment, while her surgeon emphasised that he unfortunately could not guarantee her recovery. “I was not just a process, they had truly thought about me. He told me the truth. This was my first step to trust.”

Vega spent five weeks in hospital surrounded by specialists, nurses and other personnel. During all this time a question stuck in her mind: “Do we really care about the person behind the label ‘patient’, ‘colleague’ or ‘client’?” 

Cross-industry learning: turning to another industry to find the answer

“There are beautiful alternatives everywhere, just waiting to be introduced to your context”, say Marc Heleven and Ramon Vullings, authors of the book ‘Not invented here - Cross-industry innovation’ (BIS Publishers, 2015). Leaving one’s own comfort zone, diving into another sector, extracting best practices and applying them to the home turf has proven to lead to innovation.

Take McDonald’s famous ‘Drive Thru’ concept: Its ‘big brother’ is the Fomula 1 pit stop. The automobile industry, however, also leans on other disciplines to find solutions for their most complex challenges. Video game consoles, for example, inspired BMW’s iDrive system. Replace suitcases on an airport belt by sushi et voilà, you end up with an exciting new restaurant concept.

“If restaurants can learn from airports, why shouldn’t a bank be able to learn from a hospital?” asks Andreas Feller, Head of Julius Baer’s Zurich & UHNWI team. “Private banking is a very emotional and intimate discipline. You communicate with people, their families and trusted partners from different backgrounds, tackling different challenges in their lives. ‘Caring’ is the key to develop the right solution for them. For this reason we are interested in investigating the term from a different perspective”, he elaborates. Andreas, together with Vega and Zurich’s Hirslanden clinic, decided to transform Vega’s reflections into an interactive workshop.

‘From Sell to Care’ – what private banks can learn from hospitals

‘From Sell to Care’ is a one-day workshop that encourages participants to compare their actions and organisational structures to a hospital that has proven its dedication to patient care over decades.

Ready, set, go: The day begins with a tour through the hospital building during which its concept is introduced: ‘patients’ are treated and addressed as ‘guests’, Rolf Wingeier, the Head of Hospitality and Facility Management, explains. Hirslanden employs a number of employees from the hospitality industry – a rather unusual approach in the medical services. Wingeier has two tips: Maintain or exceed the service level your clients are used to. If they go for fine dining in private, keep up this level whenever they interact with your organisation. Furthermore, product innovation is the direct result of listening to clients’ needs. The Hirslanden team, for example, developed an innovative new blanket system that ensures proper hygiene, as patients frequently asked for new blankets.

Following the tour, the participants are matched with care personnel and spend the morning with them on their ward.

Yvonne Barnitzke (Head of Cardio Care) and Patrick Mahn (Julius Baer relationship manager) compare the organisational structure of their work environments

Patrick Mahn, who works as relationship manager for Zurich-based clients of Julius Baer, partnered up with Yvonne Barnitzke, the Head of Cardio Care. “Yvonne emphasised the importance of perceiving an individual. Is he or she complicated or simply too proud to admit being in pain? Wrinkles on your forehead may speak more than words”, says Patrick.

In the afternoon, the participants reassemble to gain further insights into the hospital management. One of their credos is to invest heavily into infrastructure so that its medical personnel can focus on what really matters: the patient. A specialist is then invited to share their definition of care:

“My definition of care? Wanting to help, being active for the wellbeing of the patient, striving to cure or relieve pain.” (Dr. Schmid, Surgeon)

How do you address sensitive topics? “Break the ice with humour!”, Dr. Schmid, an experienced surgeon, replies. What is it like to be part of a cancer board? “Often challenging due to intense scientific debates, but clients profit immensely from them”, he adds.

“I want my team to ask itself ’What can I and we improve today, in a month, or in a year? Which additional services, resources and specialists do I need to bring to the table to serve clients at their best?’”, explains Andreas. Based on the discussion, the group derived the “Ten Impulses to redefine care in private banking(see document).


Andreas Feller
Private Banking Services
+41 (0)58 886 2532
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