Mark Peters, head of ADCB Private
One of the perks offered to customers by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank as it announced in February the launch of its private banking division was a titanium metal card. The 28-gram Private World Elite Mastercard is “the first ever metal alloy card by a bank in the region,” ADCB said in a statement. While the weight of the card lets customers know that they’re handling something valuable, says Mark Peters, head of ADCB Private, its novelty also indicates something bigger: ADCB wants to “bring a new era of private banking to the UAE.”
ADCB has joined a growing—but increasingly competitive—market. Wealthy households have doubled in the UAE over the course of the last decade, according to a 2015 Strategy& report. The country accounts for 26 per cent of liquid investable wealth over $200,000 in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, second only to Saudi Arabia. Such affluence has prompted some international banks to rededicate their private banking efforts in the UAE as they shift focus from commercial operations in the country. But as competition increases in the regional private banking industry, local banks, having failed to keep up with consumer demand for sophisticated products and services, will need to find niches in which to subsist, according to the report.
That niche for ADCB comes in the form of clients from wealthy family-businesses. “We have deep and multi-generational relationships with local families,” says Peters. “After advising and helping them in their most important asset, their family business, we have been asked by many to develop this relationship further.” International banks have tended towards a narrow focus on selling investment products, Peters says, while failing to serve their clients’ broader family-business needs. ADCB sees an opportunity in meeting both demands. “These two have traditionally been isolated, and we’ve been approached by many of our clients to create solutions where their business risks won’t be reflected in the wealth management solutions they wish to buy into,” says Peters.
In Peters’ experience, private banking clients from wealthy family-businesses today want their financial advisers to be familiar with their business and personal needs, and “can deliver these services seamlessly and in an integrated fashion.” As part of ADCB Private’s solution, it will partner customers with “best in class third-party asset managers across all relevant asset classes,” as well as provide its own in-house wealth management, advisory, and fund management team.
With the nature of ADCB’s target market, much of its proposition to the segment will rely on lifestyle offerings through its products, Peters says. For instance, ADCB has partnered with global lifestyle management services provider, Quintessentially, to provide customers with the opportunity to avail of a host of personal concierge services that are exclusive to members of the private club across markets in London, New York and others. “In this market, the sophistication required in service offerings is higher,” he says. “And we understand that very well.”
Despite global economic headwinds, Peters is confident the new division will be able to perform well. “A large reason private banking and wealth management services in the UAE tend to have been offered by institutions from outside the region is because the required level of expertise wasn’t available locally,” says Peters. “But after a thorough examination of what we needed to succeed, we are now finally leveraging our capabilities with individuals we’ve hired who possess world-class expertise.”
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