In 2013, BNP Paribas created Hello Bank!, its fully online bank. It now employs 240 people with...
The banking jobs : Financial Advisor
Lars Diederichs has been working in wealth management since the mid-1990s, and has been with BNP Paribas for over 12 years. Here, we learn more about what it takes to build trusting relationships with clients, and hear his thoughts on where wealth management is headed.
You’ve been in the business of building and maintaining lasting relationships for over a decade. What does your job entail?
My job is about building relationships with existing clients and developing relationships with new and potential clients. To do this, it is important to have a keen interest in the client’s original business. Many clients are entrepreneurs—that’s what they spend 24 hours a day doing—so you must make their business your business. And then, of course, you need to speak with these people at a high level, to demonstrate that you understand them and where they come from.
Clients come for advice, but many of them are already skilled investors, so they are looking for confirmation about what they want to do. Sometimes, they are less interested in capital investments, and are keen to find a trusted portfolio manager for their assets. The most important thing is that they understand what they are investing in.
So, being transparent is a vital part of what you do?
Yes, transparency and also ensuring there is a clear understanding between us and the clients. You can be transparent but, if the client doesn’t understand what they are investing in, then at the end of the day that will end poorly. Beyond simple understanding, any investment must fit the risk appetite of the client, and it must fit into their current life span or situation. It’s very important that you are advising them in a way which fits into their current lifecycle.
What do you like most about the job?
Every day, I’m faced with different scenarios—different types of clients and different life situations. My job requires a diverse range of activities, so in a way we are generalists, which means we are faced with every kind of situation you can possibly imagine.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful financial advisor?
I think first of all people need to trust you, so this goes back to what we said about always building relationships. You need to show that you are competent, and that you can explain to the client what you are advising or recommending in a clear way. That is a key factor.
People will trust you when you help them understand the risks they are taking. I have clients now who I have served for 15 years or more, some of whom now send their kids to me, as well. That has to do with trust.
I have clients now who I have served for 15 years or more, some of whom now send their kids to me, as well. That has to do with trust.
You spent a number of years with BNP Paribas in Singapore. What are some of the major differences between private banking in Asia and Europe?
One key difference is that much of the wealth in Europe is old money. In Asia, this is rarely the case, and you are often dealing with the first generation, who tend to want more control. They want to do everything themselves, they want to know everything, and they use you more as an executor than an advisor. I would also say they are a bit more demanding in terms of the level of service, expecting you to be available on your mobile phone whenever they need you. European clients tend not to do that. They appreciate their free time and give you free time, as well.
The second thing that is a bit different applies to asset classes. In Europe, we typically have three main asset classes—equities, bonds and real estate. In Asia, people look to a fourth asset class—foreign currencies—and they buy into foreign currencies to make potential capital gains. In Europe, most people don’t bother too much about foreign currencies and, when they invest in US companies, for example, they invest because they see a gain in the equity, not so much in the US dollar.
What are some trends you’re witnessing in wealth management today?
I think digitalization is the key word here, That’s a big challenge for private banks and wealth management advisors—combining personalized service with digital services that are available 24/7
I think digitalization is the key word here, specifically digital advice or, as some say, “robo-advice”. That’s a big challenge for private banks and wealth management advisors—combining personalized service with digital services that are available 24/7. At the same time, the more money involved the more people tend to seek personalized advice. combination is, I think, a hugely important trend in wealth management, and my opinion is that banks that manage to combine the digital and analogue worlds will have the most success in the future. Here in Germany we cooperate very closely with Consorsbank, which provides us and our clients a state of the art digital platform. Clients can do their own transactions at any time of day—or night—via our website or apps. We are already working on digital advice solutions.
What inspires you most, day to day?
When you close an important deal with a client, when you gain new clients, of course this is inspiring, this is what motivates you. Right now, we are adding a lot of new colleagues in Germany, and this brings new ideas and fresh blood to the organization. I moved from one wealth management growth market—Asia—to the next wealth management growth market within the group—Germany. And that’s always inspiring, of course. But most important is the teamwork, not only internally but with other units of the bank, whether it’s corporate institutional banking, BNP Paribas Real Estate, or other units. It’s the diversity in what we get to do—that’s what inspires, drives and motivates me.
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