Scion Of Syz Banking Dynasty Broadcasts Alignment Of Interests

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 17 April 2024

Scion Of Syz Banking Dynasty Broadcasts Alignment Of Interests

The head of private banking at the firm talked recently to this publication about its approach in markets such as those in Latin America and the Gulf.

A willingness by bank partners to invest in the same ideas as their clients can build trust at a time when that’s sometimes in short supply. 

For building business in regions such as Latin America and the Middle East, where relationships can take years to bear fruit, tight bank/client alignment is essential, one of the senior family figures at Banque Syz argues.

“I want to treat clients the way that I would want to be treated,” Nicolas Syz told this news service recently. He is head of private banking, and has held that spot since 2019.

Investing alongside clients is part of that approach, he said. “The [Syz] family has put its own money into our private equity and hedge funds,” he said.

“The Syz family takes the lead by initially investing in direct deals, co-investments, or private equity funds. We commit to every private equity investment by taking a stake first, effectively putting our money where our mouth is and leading in risk,” he said.  
There’s a family ownership dynamic: The Syz Group, headquartered in Geneva, was founded in 1996 by Eric Syz, Alfredo Piacentini and Paolo Luban. In June 2014, two of the co-founders decided to continue their careers in a different direction, leaving Eric Syz with the firm as CEO. Eric Syz stepped down as CEO to oversee strategic direction for the group, and Yvan Gaillard succeeded him in the CEO slot. Nicolas Syz – one of Eric’s sons – replaced Silvan Wyss as private banking head. Syz Group is majority owned by Eric and Suzanne Syz. The bank employs 235 people.

Eric Syz, CEO and co-founder of SYZ Group, announced in 2018 that he was stepping down from his role as CEO of Banque Syz to oversee the strategic vision for the group. Yvan Gaillard succeeded him as CEO of Banque Syz. In 2019, Nicolas Syz was appointed head of private banking and joined the bank's executive committee.

A large “boutique,” Banque Syz has SFr23.1 billion ($25.6 billion) of assets under management, eight offices and, in terms of its capital “shock absorber,” has a Common Equity Tier 1 solvency ratio of 29.7 per cent. Within its private bank, Banque Syz covers discretionary management, advisory, wealth planning, mortgage financing and family and investment office work.

Among recent developments, in August 2023 Banque Syz and WIZE by TeamWork entered a new partnership to propose WIZE’s proprietary wealth management software solution to professional asset managers whose clients are deposited with Syz. 

The bank's offices are in Geneva, Zurich, Pfäffikon, Lugano, Locarno, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Montevideo. (The bank opened its Turkey representative office in 2020.) The group's regulatory capital ratio of 27.7 per cent is above the 11.2 per cent requirement set by Swiss federal regulator FINMA (as of 30 June 2023).

Regional ambitions
Nicolas Syz referred to the business being developed in Latin America and the Middle East as important areas. Banque Syz has an investment advisor licence to operate in Montevideo, Uruguay. In Brazil, for example, it is an “economy that’s moving forward,” he said, noting it is a country of 220 million people, with mostly family-owned firms, and where 80 per cent of wealthy individuals hold assets onshore. Banque Syz has operated in Brazil since 2015. 

“I want to build on that,” he said. Family owners of firms can relate to what the bank is about, Syz continued. “There’s an alignment of interests. For us, there is a big opportunity that others cannot cover. And you cannot just do the job from Switzerland,” he said.

While he did not mention it explicitly, in the background is the upheaval caused by the UBS takeover in 2023 of Credit Suisse, an event that has caused some wealthy individuals to review where they hold money and with whom.

The Middle East is also important, as can be seen by a number of banks and wealth organisations setting up offices in places such as the UAE. In June 2023, Syz hired Gabriel Aractingi as managing partner and head of Middle East, and eyes expansion in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

“One advantage we have is that we can be more bespoke, and take more time to understand our clients,” he said.

“The Middle East has always been a region of focus, and even more so today, as Saudi Arabia has opened up, with a more modern regime and is supporting the entire GCC region to grow and attract talent,” he continued.  

This publication asked Nicholas Syz what “success” is for the bank and how it is measured. 

“Success is measured through our client engagement and satisfaction survey. We gauge success by our growth in assets under management and the performance of our mandates, as these are direct indicators of client satisfaction,” he replied

Nicolas mentioned the importance of the GCC region, the wealth there, and that included the wealth that has come out of Russia. Clearly there are compliance issues. What is the Syz approach to the Gulf’s challenges in compliance terms?

“Our first line of defence is bankers, who are highly experienced and have extensive knowledge of these markets, and who work closely with our compliance team,” Nicolas Syz added.

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