Philip Harris, RBC Wealth Managements head of UK Private Clients, tells Freddy Barker how young private bankers can get ahead and why a no ‘is just a deferred yes’
Philip Harris, RBC Wealth Management’s head of UK Private Clients, tells Freddy Barker how young private bankers can get ahead and why a no ‘is just a deferred yes’
‘FIGURE OUT WHAT the competition is doing and then avoid it,’ says Harris in a sun-filled room overlooking Tower Bridge. ‘It’s about developing your own USP. Everyone is clubbable, amiable and conversational, so come up with an angle.’
Pungent advice, and well worth heeding given that Harris built a £468 million book at UBS and is currently doubling RBC’s relationship managers.
The first challenge facing young private bankers is hooking HNWs as their natural reaction is likely to be, ‘What could this upstart possibly offer me?’ ‘You have to understand your client’s market. People are pleased when you know their business: they open up and have a debate, whereas if it is a case of “What do you do?” “I’m in private equity.” “That’s interesting,” then nothing will come of it.
‘I focussed on [HNWs in] the private equity sector and, in particular, planning carried interest payouts,’ he says. ‘That was great – it was close to the private equity guys’ hearts, so if you called them then they would respond.
‘Winning clients is about empathy,’ says Harris. ‘Ask yourself what you would want your bank to talk about and approach things from the other end of the telescope.’
ONCE A YOUNG private banker has worked out who they want to target, it is about consistency says Harris.
‘The military have a great phrase: select and maintain the aim. It means everything you do commercially should be aimed at a specific objective, so if a fellow banker says, “Let’s meet some cricketers,” then you should say no if it’s not your focus.
‘As for the approach,’ he continues, ‘you have to work out what suits you, but it boils down to two options. First, write a note and follow up with a phone call towards the end of the day. Second, use your degrees of separation to get introduced.
‘Frankly I wouldn’t rely on one, though. You want fingers in each of those pies and you want to keep at it. People give up far too soon. Remember that no is simply a deferred yes.’
AT THIS POINT, it is crucial to bear in mind that selecting the right client is as important as signing them. Yes, there is immense pressure on young private bankers to hoover up anything that moves in 5 Hertford Street as they are expected to have £15 million assets under management by the end of year one. But the sustainability of relationships is a vital to surviving years two, three and four.
To build a scalable book, Harris therefore recommends veering away from handover clients or out-of-the-box leads, opting instead for UHNWs with similar requirements, active needs and amenable demeanours. ‘Ultimately, if you help clients to enjoy the experience,’ says Harris, ‘then your relationships will become deeper, longer and more profitable.’
To the young, the approach may seem high risk at best and likely to end in a P45 at worst. But it’s a virtuous circle – clients mix with their own, so hold out for a UHNW and you’ll get introduced to more.
ADHERING TO THESE tips should ensure that young private bankers survive the end-of-year-one cull. And by year two, they should be on £60-80,000-plus bonus.
Should they wish to change institutions at that point then an awareness that book size isn’t everything to prospective employers is helpful. ‘It is about human capital in 2012,’ says Harris. ‘Nowadays, most clients deal with the bank and not the banker, therefore book migration is 20-30 per cent rather than 60-80 per cent.
‘So, looking at young private bankers’ books is important, but it is not the first thing that someone is my position does; that is the assessment of the individual – will they fit in culturally – as they should be able to replicate what they have done at their previous institution for you.’
And thus the cycle continues, until, with luck, you are on £100,000 plus bonus by year five and have become the master of your own destiny.