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Schroders’ Luc Denis Says Swiss Business is Healthy

Contributing Editor

16 March 2005

Luc Denis, the head of the Swiss private banking business of Schroders, is a happy man. Last year assets under management at the private banking business in Switzerland rose by 28 per cent to SFr5.5 billion ($4.2 billion)—that, in terms of percentages, is much more than most of the mid-sized private banks currently in the midst of their reporting season. “We have been well positioned and have done a number of special deals last year which has kept the business growing strongly,” Mr Denis told WealthBriefing in a recent interview with him in Geneva. Clients are partly attracted to Schroders, says Mr Denis, because of the performance of the funds. “The selection of our funds has ensured a very good performance in 2004 and an even stronger performance so far this year.” He added: “2005 has been extremely good both in relative and absolute terms.” The 21-year veteran of Schroders, who says he is now part of the furniture of the venerable British financial firm, also believes efforts to work much closer with clients has paid off. “We weathered the tough years of 2000 to 2002 not too badly—but one thing we realized during these years was the need to work even closer with the clients and I think this is paying off now.” Clients of Schroders’ Swiss private banking business are unique in that as many as 30 per cent of them are Swiss residents. In most offshore private banking businesses in Geneva the percentage is not likely to be much more than 10 per cent. Mr Denis believes the Swiss financial sector has also improved its reputation greatly in the last few years, which has helped the overall private banking sector. “The old image of the lazy and arrogant Swiss banker has gone,” said Mr Denis from his office in Geneva, where one can see the impressive fountain of Jet d’eau. The quality of the staff has improved greatly as well, said Mr Denis. Financial education and the greater ease in recruiting foreigners have added to this improvement. Mr Denis believes strong growth can be maintained through growing the business organically. “I’m not convinced about an acquisition, because in Swiss private banking it is extremely difficult to do—although I can see this happening in the wider context of the business from London.” A man who likes his hobbies, which include fine wine and expensive racing cars, Mr Denis believes a good private banker needs to have hobbies—and preferably expensive ones. “A private banker without hobbies might find it tough to recruit new clients.”