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Asiamoney Private Banking Awards 2020: India



Best Domestic Private Bank: Kotak

Best International Private Bank: Standard Chartered

Best for Investment Research: Kotak

Best for Family Offices: Edelweiss

Best for Wealth Transfer/Succession Planning: Waterfield

Best for UHNW: Waterfield

Best for HNW: Kotak

Award winners

Best Domestic Private Bank: Kotak Mahindra Bank

Best for Investment Research: Kotak Mahindra Bank

Best for HNW: Kotak Mahindra Bank

 Oisharya Das, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Kotak Mahindra Bank has many standout characteristics, but a key reason for its enduring success, including in private banking, lies in its timing. It seems able to offer clients what they want, just before they know they want it.

In terms of scale, it is by far India’s leading wealth manager, with total assets under management from private and priority banking customers at the end of 2019 of $54 billion.

But size is a by-product of decades of careful development and a desire to deliver world-class products to clients. Kotak has managed wealth for its private banking clients for more than 20 years, and was one of the first universal lenders in India to roll out family office advisory services.

Its ability, under the current leadership of its wealth management chief executive Oisharya Das, to remain at the head of the class year after year in a highly competitive market is widely admired by its peers. They point to its ability to marry a sizeable physical presence with a high-quality digital platform.

Kotak has private banking offices in 15 cities including Mumbai and Bangalore, catering to the needs of over 4,400 families, including roughly half of India’s 100 richest families.

It offers estate planning and trusts via a wholly owned subsidiary, Kotak Mahindra Trusteeship Services Limited. Philanthropy services that focus on impact investing and volunteering opportunities are offered by Kotak Investment Advisors Limited (KIAL) in coordination with external experts.

Its NexGen Connect programme is aimed at providing millennial clients with advice on how to invest and keep abreast of digital developments and new asset classes.

It delivers daily market updates and investment strategy and portfolio reports to clients – particularly useful during the coronavirus pandemic, with much of the country locked down.

And as ever, it never sits still. Its products and research team focuses on a host of asset classes, from equities and mutual funds to derivatives and portfolio management services. Its open architecture process ensures that every product is screened, analyzed and short-listed.

The latest grand idea is Kotak Optimus, a multi-asset, multi-portfolio platform that delivers a discretionary asset allocation portfolio to high and ultra-high net-worth clients offered by KIAL. It is based on an algorithm that divides customers into two risk profiles – moderate and aggressive – and creates portfolios attuned to their needs.

Optimus is simple to use – it offers one-click access to multiple fund managers and eliminates multiple documentation – and cleaves to a general global shift toward discretionary asset allocation.

The platform also adjusts to daily shifts in the prices of assets, commodities and securities, offering yet more proof of Kotak’s ability to predict and adapt to key changes in the local and global investment environment.

The financial group is also ahead of the curve in other ways. When Blackstone and Bangalore-based Embassy Property joined forces to launch India’s first listed real estate investment trust in March 2019, raising $690 million, Kotak’s private banking team was chosen to cover the Reit’s entire HNW portion.

The bank went to work criss-crossing the country, educating India’s wealthiest families about the benefits of investing in property trusts. It worked – and the only clients that didn’t buy during the listing process piled in fast to profit from the secondary market.

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Best International Private Bank: Standard Chartered Bank

 Aman Rajoria, Standard Chartered Bank

The UK-based, emerging markets-focused lender is a big player in India’s financial sector. Standard Chartered Bank’s history in the south Asian market stretches back more than 160 years, and it has more than 100 branches in 43 cities, including bespoke private banking offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore, while also serving high net-worth families in a host of other first-tier cities, including Kolkata.

Under the aegis of Aman Rajoria, its India head of private bank, Standard Chartered acquires net new money primarily by focusing on a long-standing core of top-end clients.

In recent years, it has cut its roster of relationship managers to 23 from 38 and streamlined wealth management, re-prioritising hundreds of clients upward into private banking, and many others downward, into priority or retail banking.

Its aim is to serve a smaller core of HNW and UHNW families, whose wealth is located onshore as well as scattered around the world. That ties in with a focus on delivering new services geared to the needs of its global Indian clientele, including an NRI deposit scheme tailored to non-resident Indians, and the leveraging of its One Bank franchise, which attracted $790 million in new deposits in 2019.

StanChart’s financial performance in a generally tough year was notable. Income rose 3% year on year, with assets under management up 6% on an annualized basis to $10.5 billion, and lending rising 3%.

It opened 126 new accounts in 2019, and reckons it manages the wealth of roughly 40% of India’s richest families. AuM per relationship manager jumped 143% in 2019, though this sharp rise can be explained in part by the fall in the number of in-house RMs.

StanChart invests heavily in training its bankers and in the financial education of younger customers. It partnered with Fitch Learning and Insead to build a bespoke training scheme for its front-line private banking team, and created a next-generation programme for millennials, which focuses on instilling better qualities of leadership, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, sustainability and communication.

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Best for Family Offices: Edelweiss Private Wealth Management

Edelweiss Private Wealth Management is a classic Indian financial success story. It is professional and worldly, innovative and urbane, and undoubtedly one of the best private banking outfits.

It is a little different from its peers too, in that it focuses on building relationships with up-and-coming entrepreneurs, and helping them manage their wealth as it grows. As their fortunes rise, so does Edelweiss’s: total assets under management rose to a little shy of $19 billion in 2019, against $16.5 billion the previous year.

Despite being an all-round provider of elite private banking services, Edelweiss also specializes in managing the fortunes of the country’s wealthiest families, offering a raft of services from its offices in 10 Indian cities. Via its long-standing partnership with specialist intelligence provider Campden Wealth, it offers closed-door networking events to high net-worth families, and publishes the only annual report on family offices.

Its latest Emerging Ideas conference, held in September 2019, attracted 600 people, including 150 company owners and 380 UHNWs.

In 2019 alone, it hosted the following: three family coaching sessions tailored to the needs of family offices; six lifestyle events for UHNWs; 17 philanthropy sessions focused on sustainability; and 28 investment roadshows attended by Edelweiss chief executive and chairman Rashesh Shah.

The group reckons it generates 16% of its AuM by serving family offices, offering everything from capital raising (debt and equity) to structured credit, and business and tax advisory to treasury management.

Given that most Indian family offices are embedded in companies – many of which are very young, owned by a first-generation promoter, and growing very fast – as they tap into new onshore revenue streams and fresh capital from global investors, Edelweiss is in a great position to remain a leader in onshore private banking services, including in family offices, for years to come.

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Best for UHNW: Waterfield Advisors

Best for Wealth Transfer/Succession Planning: Waterfield Advisors

 Soumya Rajan, Waterfield Advisors

Soumya Rajan may be India’s best and best-known private banker.

Before founding Waterfield Advisors in 2011, she spent 16 years at Standard Chartered, where her last assignment was as head of onshore private banking.

As the CEO of Waterfield, she brings to bear a quarter century in financial experience that also spans consumer banking and risk management.

Waterfield’s well-heeled bankers serve clients with, on average, $40 million to $50 million in assets under management. But if there is a group that Rajan and her team specialize in serving, it is a demographic she describes as India’s ‘emerging UHNW’.

Predominantly young, and with between $10 million and $30 million in financial assets, the demographic had long been underserved. Seeing the opportunity, she grabbed it a decade ago and never looked back.

The firm describes itself as India’s ‘leading independent multi-family office and wealth advisory firm’, but definitions rarely do a financial institution justice. This is no boutique operation: Waterfield manages $3.5 billion worth of assets on behalf of more than 60 of India’s wealthiest and most prominent business families, from four offices including Mumbai and Chennai.

It has branded itself carefully, but it wears its mantle of exclusivity lightly. It sees itself as an honest broker of others’ services: it doesn’t make its own products, and it works with outside specialists including the likes of Morningstar and Pune-based Finaureus Technologies, to assess the performance of funds run by everyone from asset managers to private equity firms.

Its aim, always, is to tap into unrealized potential and deliver that knowledge directly to its clients.

Waterfield is never afraid to try new things, and its boldness usually pays off. Its ‘Family Office Consortium’ brings together the principal members of family offices, enabling them to pool their knowledge, wisdom and capital. Such collaboration, increasingly popular in the US, is relatively new to India.

This kind of ability to think outside the box, and to be unafraid to try new things, is a key reason why Waterfield reported a 105% year-on-year rise in revenues in 2019.

It also leads in wealth transfer and succession planning. India’s wealth largely comes in two forms: long-standing multi-generational family wealth, and a recent surge of wealth creation in sectors such as healthcare, technology and logistics.

India’s wealthiest families are increasingly global operations: a patriarch or matriarch may live in Mumbai, but offspring may be scattered across the world, along with the family’s assets. Waterfield not only manages complex pools of assets held in multiple markets, but also helps to educate the next generation of family members as they decide what to do in life, be it follow in their parents’ footsteps, or pursue a different career in business, philanthropy or home-making.

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