Private Wealth Management: Graduate Area of Work

Also known as “private banking”, private wealth management is about managing the finances of high net-worth clients.
The gradsingapore Team

Private wealth management – more often referred to as private banking – engages high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) (along with the occasional small-business owner) who are looking for specialised services that cater to their distinctive needs as clients with a larger-than-usual amount of wealth.

This can include financial planning, investment management, as well as advising on tax, retirement funds, and family trusts.

While these may seem like run-of-the-mill retail banking services, the tricky part is that these clients tend to possess diverse portfolios across a number of industries.

As a result, catering to these clients requires in-depth, specialist knowledge of their investment options and the industries that these encompass. Indeed, private wealth management usually involves customising and tailoring exclusive solutions for specific clients.

Private wealth management services can be split broadly into two areas: advisory and discretionary.

Advisory services involve the bank advising the client on what decisions should be taken to maximize their returns. The client then acts accordingly, maintaining direct control over their portfolios.

Discretionary services, on the other hand, involve the client and the bank meeting to discuss overall strategy to maximise the client’s return. The bank then makes the appropriate day-to-day decisions to achieve that aim, freeing up their client to do other things (unless unexpected occurrences such as a sudden economic crash occur).

Career overview

Job roles within the private wealth management industry typically fall within one of these three areas: relationship management, investment, and support.

Relationship management positions are essentially sales and marketing roles. People working in these positions are responsible for developing and maintaining a good rapport with the clients, as well as promoting the bank’s services to them.

It is their job to identify clients’ needs and the problems that they may face, and to “match-make” them with the solutions that the bank can offer.

Investment specialists then analyse the market and provide investment recommendations to clients brought in by relationship managers. In discretionary capacities, they may also make investment decisions on clients’ behalf.

Investment staff may also liaise with other product specialists in the bank who can provide expert advice on certain assets or investment options.

Staff working in support functions will assist investment professionals in managing client portfolios and researching new commercial ideas. They also ensure that the overall business runs smoothly, and that key activities are carried out on time.

These functions can include compliance, operations, human resources, and accounting.

Required skills

For those looking to work in relationship management, a degree with strengths in marketing, sales, or public relations is a plus. Possessing some knowledge about the financial market and how it operates is also desirable in understanding how best to fulfill the needs of your customers.

It goes without saying that good communications and people skills are crucial, but patience is also another very important trait to possess as your clients may be quite demanding and difficult – given the fees that they pay for the company’s services.

Language skills are also highly valued in such roles, and multilingualism is a huge asset.

Those intending to work as investment professionals do not necessarily need a finance-related degree. However, some private wealth management firms may want you obtain specialised certifications (such as a master’s in wealth management), before you are allowed to climb the ladder past a certain point.

Strong numerical and analytical skills are also equally important, and so are self-motivation and your ability to work in a team.

Most importantly, though, is your practice of trustworthiness and discretion. Remember, it’s called “private” wealth management for a reason – it is vital that information does not get leaked as you handle clients’ investments!

Ups and downs

One main benefit that private wealth management people enjoy is the insight that they get into the industry.

As many wealthy customers who use such services usually cross-invest their assets, you will get a chance to observe (and even participate in) various investment strategies in order to derive the most returns. Most client-advisor relationships tend to last long in this industry, which often translate to good networking resources.

The downside, however, is that it you will need to accrue a significant amount of experience in this industry before anyone will even trust you to handle a customer’s finances.

This line of work is also well-known for being highly competitive, with numerous firms (and even your own co-workers) jostling after a small, select elite of high-net-worth clients.

Be prepared to work incredibly hard if you want to advance a career in this profession.