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World's Rich Want More Feel-Good Investments From Their Private Banks

Family offices and foundations urge wealth managers to "step up their game" in regards to impact investments.

By David Ramli and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen

(Bloomberg) -- Some of the world’s richest people may take their money away from private bankers and wealth managers unless they offer more impact investments and philanthropy deals, according to family offices and foundations.

RS Group Chair Annie Chen, whose Hong Kong-based family office is dedicated to impact investments, said at the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network conference in Singapore Wednesday that despite many banks promising to offer more deals that do good, front-line bankers and relationship managers often failed to do so.

Her comments come as private bankers prepare for the transition of wealth away from older family members and toward next-generation investors who have expressed a desire to change the world for the better as well as make money. More than one-third of wealth clients surveyed by Ernst & Young LLP in a report last month said they’re planning to switch financial service providers within the next three years because they’re dissatisfied.

“I’d urge you to really step up your game besides the pronouncements that you make at the likes of the World Economic Forum, and give budget to your different branches, different regions, so that your front-line people -- the wealth relationship managers -- actually get educated about sustainable investing,” Chen said.

William + Flora Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer echoed her sentiments. The $9.9 billion foundation was established by the co-founder of Hewlett Packard Corp. and it awarded about $408 million of grants in 2017.

“A big part of our climate work is beginning to focus on getting banks -- retail and investment banks -- to change exactly that,” he said on the sidelines of the conference. “To the extent that your clients want to do philanthropy you should be helping them.”

Read more: Harvard Course Helps Rich Millennials Do Good (and Make Money)

Standard Chartered Plc’s global head of private banking and wealth management Didier von Daeniken said the inability of front-line staff to offer better information was “the biggest headache for us.” High-net-worth individuals will have almost $70 trillion in net investable assets by 2021, according to E&Y.

“If we don’t get it right, we won’t be able to engage our clients in future,” he said.

Von Daeniken said Standard Chartered is training about 50 bankers, or around 15% of the private banking and wealth management team’s front-line sales force, to be experts in the field of impact investing. The bank’s assets under management in impact investing are still small, but growing at more than 10% a year, he said.

Yet the issue is a complex one for relationship managers, whose salaries and bonuses are often linked to the size of a client’s portfolio and its return on investment. While impact investments in theory eventually pay a profit, they’re often risky and can have lower returns.

To contact the reporters on this story:
David Ramli in Singapore at [email protected];
Chanyaporn Chanjaroen in Singapore at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katrina Nicholas at [email protected]
Peter Vercoe

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