Fifty private bankers is no small number. Including support staff, Citizens Financial estimates it is about 120 people joining the firm.

The firm has also welcomed a new head of Citizens Private Bank, Susan de Tray, to lead the growth strategy and propel the firm.

Brendan Coughlin, vice chairman and head of consumer banking, spoke on the appointment: “Susan is a well-respected, accomplished banking leader with tremendous breadth and depth of experience delivering exceptional client-centric private banking and wealth management experiences at large financial services firms. She will help significantly accelerate our private banking growth strategy, fueled by our recent hiring, leading the buildout of a world-class offering for the market.”

Speaking to PBI, Chris Weyrauch, head of wealth management, explained: “It’s just all part of a longer strategic effort from Citizens and it is focused on building out the wealth management business in a really meaningful way.”

Growing in a meaningful way

Weyrauch joined Citizens over two years ago and was given a task; to help scale the wealth management business and transform it into a meaningful part of the business. In terms of number , he had to double the size of the wealth arm over the next few years.

This “strategic desire” has led to an “aggressive strategy” in terms of recruitment.

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Weyrauch said: “From a wealth perspective, strategically and as part of the transformational journey, we have invested heavily in reconfiguring our hiring practices. We have invested heavily in our training programmes before we put the advisers or bankers in front of clients. We also have another very rigorous training programme that’s focused purely on client communication and planning. That has added great value to the organisation.”

Headcount for the firm is now at its highest since September 2021.

Another aspect was technology and digitalisation. Weyrauch and the Citizens team had to make sure that the firm could keep up with client demands.

Weyrauch added: “We have also invested heavily in technology to really enhance the client, adviser, and employee experiences by building out our client and adviser portal capabilities. The strategy has been multifaceted and we have been moving at a very, very rapid pace.

“We introduced virtual financial adviser capabilities from a wealth management perspective so we can reach and serve clients where they are, something that we didn’t have two years ago.”

Growing from the outside

This strategy has not appeared overnight and an important part of the strategy was finalised in 2019 with the acquisition of a firm named Clarfeld Financial Advisors.

Clarfeld is a wealth management firm and multi-family office with specialised expertise in managing the financial affairs of HNWIs and UHNWIs, their families and related entities. At the time of the deal, Clarfeld combined with the wealth management business of Citizens will oversaw approximately $14.4bn of AuM and $34.1bn of AuM/AuA.

“It was a wonderful acquisition because they brought boutique-like investment management services, planning capabilities, high end tax service capabilities and bill pay servicing capabilities,” purported Weyrauch.

“That positioned us really quickly to win in the high net worth and ultra high net worth segments. As a testament to that, it is probably our fastest growing channel today.”

Weyrauch concluded: If you think about our value proposition, and why an advisor might choose Citizens, we have a very exciting story to tell.

“If you are an adviser and looking for a firm that is willing to invest in you from a training perspective, a firm that is willing to surround you with certified financial planners and take all of that work off their desk to add value. A firm that will actually show up in client meetings and allow the adviser to utilise their expertise. That is really attractive.”