Peter Flavel, CEO at Coutts, looks over the past year for the UK headquartered private bank
As we approach the end of the year and look back on the events of 2016, I am understandably reticent about making predictions for 2017. Few would have confidently predicted that the United Kingdom would vote to leave the European Union and far fewer that Donald Trump would be elected the 45th President of the United States. But these were not the only shocks to the political system in 2016 – who would have thought that a former Shadow Chancellor would have seen off nine other celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing before finally succumbing to the public vote. “Edxit” may well yet be the buzzword of 2016.
2016 was also the year I moved to London and took up the post of Chief Executive at Coutts; a true privilege as we approach our 325th anniversary in 2017. As a bank, our underlying vision remains unchanged over our long history. We continue to be there for our clients, to offer them piece of mind, to help them with their dream home, and ensure that their wealth has its intended consequences. And whilst the needs of our clients remain the same, how we meet those needs is changing and will continue to change in 2017.
With the evolution of technology, our clients are demanding a more personalised service than ever before and as our client base continues to broaden, our ability to meet those needs will be informed more and more by big data and AI. In 2016, our clients finally saw the back of the antiquated card-reader they required to log-in to online banking which was replaced by a UK banking industry first; a simple yet innovative push notification called CouttsID which has seen strong uptake among our clients. In 2017, I predict a greater role for AI at Coutts, which will augment the client experience and make it richer, with plans to role out voice recognition technology, and other ‘behind the scenes’ technology to combat the ever present cyber criminals. We will also begin to see a step-change in the way we personalise our services for clients, based on intelligent data, and I firmly believe that clients will increasingly come to expect companies, including their bank, to know what they want as they move away from the suspicions of old concerning the use of data and demand a more tailored client experience.
However, for this approach to be successful it is vital that the trust that exists between client and banker remains. That’s why our clients will still be able to speak to a named banker via Coutts 24, our ever popular telephone service open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – and I’ll be dropping my colleagues a call after my Christmas lunch, just to be sure. And of course our wonderful Coutts Concierge service.
Turning to wider economic issues, to say that 2016 has been a challenging year would be an understatement. Sterling remains the biggest economic casualty of Brexit, but the Coutts view is the market may well be pricing in too much pessimism. Unlike some others, we don’t foresee a UK recession – economic activity in the UK remains buoyant and growth forecasts remain positive, albeit slightly down. Simply put, Great Britain was great in the E.U and will continue to be Great Britain outside. Across the Atlantic, news of Trump’s victory has been more positively received by markets than many thought. We continue to hold the view that the US Federal Reserve will raise rates but believe rises will come more slowly than previously anticipated. While there are many political uncertainties on the horizon for 2017, we will continue to be there for our clients who can take comfort from the fact that our main investment solutions remain very much in first quartile territory.
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I wish PBI and its readers a happy and prosperous 2017.