Julius Baer, one of the most traditional Swiss private banks, based on Zurich’s central artery of Bahnhoffstrasse, has emerged as the pandemic’s unlikely poster boy.

While there is a strong belief among bank management that technology will never replace personal contact or trust, there is an accompanying faith that a newly-digitalised approach can create a much stronger personalisation of products for clients, with a vastly quicker time to market.

“With Covid-19, the pace of change in wealth management has been faster than ever and the crisis has accelerated trends in the industry,” says Nic Dreckmann, chief operating officer and head of intermediaries at Bank Julius Baer. “We have embraced the situation as an accelerator for our own transformation.”

One early improvement was the rapid introduction of a digital onboarding system, including video identification. The bank has also expanded the digital interaction channels for clients, including the launch of a secure WhatsApp communication solution and the direct distribution of expert insights via digital channels.

Another innovation has been the Spark platform, enabling the use of big data and artificial intelligence, to enable the digital sale of structured products. 

Although there have been substantial investments into digital resources, these also coincide with a SFr200m ($225m) cost reduction programme. “The productivity programme announced at the beginning of 2020 enables us to create room for innovation and targeted re-investment,” says Mr Dreckmann. 

“One pillar of our strategic plan is to accelerate investments in technology. We are investing primarily into client value enhancing technologies at the front end and to increase quality and efficacy also in back-office processes.” YB