In our Business Brief series, we take a closer look at a firm to find what makes it tick. We chat with Roberto Martins, head of global wealth services for Itaú’s international businesses based in Miami and Switzerland, who tells us how staying close to home keeps clients happy.
Itaú Private Bank International
Headquarters: São Paulo
Main hubs outside of Brazil: Miami (since 2007) and Switzerland (1990)
AUM: $21 billion ($12 billion Miami, $9 billion Switzerland)
International advisors: 110
Offshore client breakdown:
Roberto Martins, head of global wealth services
What differentiates your business?
Our proximity with our clients, which translates into client satisfaction. Our model is based on our local presence in key markets, which allows us to serve our clients with a distinctive advantage – we are available for any of our client’s needs and we will never leave the region.
All of our private bankers are based where our clients are, managing both onshore and offshore client relationships.
Upon reviewing client satisfaction surveys it’s very clear clients put a lot of emphasis on having one person looking at their business inside their country and outside.
It’s not just that it’s easier to have one person to talk to – from a wealth planning standpoint they’re being serviced by someone who understands their local market and has knowledge of international markets.
This is extremely important because when you are putting together a portfolio for a jurisdiction outside of their country you must take into consideration the local challenges they might be facing.
How are you planning to grow the business?
We don’t really believe in the old offshore model, where private bankers see their clients once a quarter. We want to be able to service clients in their local currency, as well as in international markets.
For that, we will continue to grow organically in markets such as Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Mexico, and future acquisitions are always a possibility.
We most recently acquired Chilean firm CorpBanca, which also has a presence in Colombia.
We want to have private bankers sitting in all key markets in Latin America, offering a global platform to our clients.
What is your biggest challange at the moment?
The impact of technology in our business is absolutely fascinating. The speed and magnitude of innovation makes it unclear who the players will be in the future.
Our biggest challenge is finding the right balance when it comes to the demand for innovation between current clients and the next generation.
Many of our clients are not necessarily early adopters of new technologies.
We are absolutely convinced that we are living through the biggest tectonic shift this industry has ever seen.
The traditional role of financial institutions as advisors, balance sheet providers and intermediates is quickly being challenged by robo advisors, unregulated new entrants and decentralizing technologies such as blockchain.
In order to be prepared for the future, we are going through a profound cultural change.
We even created the word ‘DigItaú’ to illustrate how much we have embraced the digital revolution.
We have innovation incubators in our headquarters where young entrepreneurs can develop the products that will shape our services in the future.
If we can’t be in Silicon Valley, we want to bring Silicon Valley to us.
By Michelle Abrego
For most people, Brazilian banking and innovation aren’t obvious bedfellows. However, Itaú Unibanco appears to be making some surprising progress towards 21st century banking.
In April, it partnered up with R3, a firm focused on developing solutions from blockchain-based technologies and announced it was working with other financial market players to develop new products and services for the market in relation to digital currencies.
The bank also took a progressive step in August by allowing clients to pay for services via a fee-based structure rather than relying on commissions.
What all these developments have in common is a focus on anticipating what clients might want in the future, and acting now to get ahead of the curve.
This article was published in the February edition of Citywire Americas, to get a subscription, click here.