Christoph T. Müller (VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA): Covid-19 and client relationships in an online world
Christoph T. Müller, Head of Private Banking and Managing Director at VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA, says the bank and its staff were able to adapt smoothly to the constraints of Covid-19. Challenges in the coming years include deglobalisation, increased regulation and complexity, along with growing digitalisation in what remains a people business.
How has VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA adapted to the disruptive impact of Covid-19?
When the pandemic began VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA rapidly implemented its business continuity plan - making the health of staff its priority. ‘We had already sent people home before the lockdown with only a few employees remaining at the premises. Our biggest concern was whether VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA could continue to provide the usual services to its customers, but the continuous yearly investments in our IT systems enabled our operations to keep running smoothly with staff working from home. This - and the fact that we kept regular contact, continued to give market updates, offered advice and execute trades - was highly appreciated by our customers. Monthly VP Bank Experts – Digital video conferences are now complementing our services. For our staff we were holding weekly online team meetings to maintain motivation and keep from feeling isolated during the lockdown. As an outcome of this crisis the future of private banking will involve more digital interaction with clients, but it’s still a people business and personal meetings are appreciated. Travelling is currently difficult, but we are finding new, safe and engaging ways to meet our clients. Instead of big events with as many as 80 people, we now invite only up to 10 prospects and clients from different backgrounds to fireside chats with a keynote speech from our chief Group economist and discussions and networking over dinner.’
“Digitalisation requires the right balance between digital tools and the human touch”
Christoph T. Müller, head of private banking and managing director at VP Bank
How is VP Bank expanding its private banking business in Luxembourg and abroad?
We aim at high-quality growth and profitable business in our target markets. In Luxemburg, we focus on central and northern Europe, especially German and Nordic clients which are a perfect fit for our group culture. We offer a comprehensive range of services with all documentation available in German and English. Five years ago, our group executive defined a growth strategy for Luxembourg: organic growth through enhanced services in chosen markets, supported by recruitment of client advisors – my team and I came from Nordea Bank to target the German market. In addition, VP Bank has made acquisitions such as Carnegie’s fund business, Catella’s Nordic private banking business and most recently Öhman Bank’s Luxembourg operations. Our target clients often move to the same countries, especially Spain and the UK where we can service them, including resident non-domiciled clients in Britain that keep their assets outside the UK. In general, we welcome clients resident in EEA member states.
What challenges and opportunities will VP Bank (Luxembourg) SA’s private banking business face over the next five years?
A key area is digitalisation, which requires the right balance between IT tools and the human touch. We need to attract talent, using the bank’s strength and market credibility, and clients, drawing on the increased focus among wealthy individuals and families on ESG issues and social engagement, which is one of our strengths. We will deploy our resources and expertise to face challenges such as deglobalisation, increased regulation and complexity, the risk of price erosion, and the new environment created by Covid-19, which brings constraints but also promises a better work-life balance. Our strategy focuses on holistic wealth advisory, putting clients in control of their investments and life, using the broad capabilities of Luxembourg’s financial sector along with the toolbox of VP Bank. We also aim to boost synergies between private banking and our fund services for independent asset managers, family offices and wealthy individuals who wish to establish private funds.