Best private bank in the Middle East
Best leader in private banking (Philipp Rickenbacher, CEO)

Senior managers at Julius Baer, one of the private banking stalwarts of the Bahnhofstrasse pedestrian thoroughfare in the heart of Zurich, refer to 2020 as a “truly extraordinary year”, with smiles of relief. Not only are they pleased at still being here to tell the tale, but they are expressing genuine delight, almost surprise, that their bank has survived the crisis in such good shape. Despite its traditional image, the bank, under the leadership of CEO Philipp Rickenbacher, has embraced the challenges more swiftly and successfully than some competitors. Indeed, during 2020, it freed up budgets to accelerate investment in its ongoing digital transformation, pumping SFr90m ($97m) into improving its digital channels and become one of the first Swiss firms to offer digital onboarding of clients. The strategy, cooked up in its low-rise headquarters, was a simple but effective one: to connect with clients and employees safely and with a heightened contact frequency and relevance in communications between clients and the global force of 1400 relationship managers. The bank’s recommendation at the outset of the pandemic was to stick to established investment strategies, while taking advantage of the many opportunities its investment experts kept on identifying in volatile markets. Investment staff at Julius Baer believe this advice proved helpful for its clients and their portfolios. This confidence translated into gratifying inflows of fresh assets from existing and new clients to the tune of $16bn in 2020, driving managed assets up to $470bn. The bank also likes to talk about more existential and philosophical matters as well as enjoying the cold, hard facts of financial performance, taking the opportunity to launch a impact investing platform, which it promises will be the first in a series of responsible investing innovations.

For Julius Baer, the Middle East remains a strategically important growth market, with the group’s move to make Dubai the hub for its regional activity showing faith in the Emirate’s leadership and growth opportunities. The activities of this central fulcrum are complemented by local offices in Beirut, Manama and Abu Dhabi, as well as from a growing number of group locations in Europe and Asia. YB