A few months ago Sérène El Masri became the Site Manager of the Monaco branch of Union Bancaire Privée (UBP), a bank she joined in 2017 in Geneva as head of its private banking activities for Monaco, Luxembourg and the French-speaking regions. This bold banker shared her first impressions of the Monaco market with us.
Your wealth management experience has included BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank. What made you choose UBP, a very successful private bank, but also a family-owned one?
Firstly, UBP is a Swiss bank, and the Swiss approach to private banking is really one of a kind. For example, approaching clients’ wealth holistically is an ingrained instinct.
Also, UBP is independent; it is not listed on the stock market. It is one of the world’s leading family-owned private banks and also a private banking pure player. This enables us to ”walk the talk” when it comes to client centricity.
UBP is known for its dynamism and, on the basis of my last two years with the bank, I can confirm that reputation is justified. This bank has a knack for anticipating change and adapting to it; it also has a very short decision-making chain. UBP is a key partner for clients that expect quick responses to their needs. And it offers a motivating working environment for people seeking proper challenges.
Lastly, it is a bank where each employee's personality can thrive, where you are not put into a mould, and where initiative is strongly encouraged!
You have managed UBP private banking activities in Luxembourg, a country with a big financial sector. What are your takeaways?
Luxembourg has two major assets:
- It is a natural hub for banks that are based outside the European Union and need to maintain and develop access to EU markets;
- It has specific expertise in structuring and administering ultra-high net worth clients’ wealth.
Many of the investment professionals I worked with there impressed me with their broad technical knowledge and humility.
On the other hand, Luxembourg banks are probably exposed to higher margin pressures than in other countries. Cost management is among their top priorities.
You have been based in Monaco for a few months. What are your first impressions?
Although I have only been based here since April, my previous responsibilities have allowed me to follow the evolution of the Monaco financial centre for years.
Above all, I find that the private banking industry has been significantly professionalised – bank employees are more technical and better trained, this across functions; clients have access to a broader range of products and services; and regulatory changes are better understood and anticipated.
The Monaco financial centre has also managed to preserve its reputation, demonstrating sound risk management skills.
There is however still a lot of potential to tap into: the wealthiest investors continue to deposit the majority of their assets in other jurisdictions. An increase in Monaco’s market share requires further development of asset management, trading, and wealth structuring expertise. Innovation in these three areas is key given the commoditisation of traditional banking services.
What are your ambitions for UBP’s Monaco branch and how are you planning to implement them?
Since 2015 our growth has been purely organic. Our assets under management have grown by 35% and in 2018 we registered a sharp increase in our net results. Our objective over the next three years is to grow our assets under management at the same pace, whilst preserving our efficiency.
Our development plan includes proceeding with the recruitment drive initiated this year. We are also not ruling out the possibility of an acquisition if an attractive opportunity presents itself.
We will continue to deploy UBP’s flagship products, including in private markets – private equity and real estate – where our club deal approach resonates particularly with sophisticated investors.
We also plan to increase the proportion of Advisory Mandates which are directly serviced by our investment specialists. Our local team has solid experience, especially in interest rate instruments, derivatives and currency trading. This is a very popular service among our most active investors.
Of course we will continue to support our clients with their financing requirements, in particular in the real estate field.
Lastly, we want to capitalise further on the expertise of our Family Office Advisory (FOSS) team, which helps families set up single-family offices or select the multi-family office best suited to their needs, and on our range of responsible investment solutions.
We believe that integrating environmental, social and governance considerations into our investment processes, and engaging as a shareholder with businesses that seek sustainable positive impacts are essential for improved risk management and alpha-generation.