Case Study

Transforming a private bank for customer centricity and innovation

EY teams helped a leading private bank shape and execute a business transformation for profitable growth and enhanced customer experience.

The better the question

What if you could approach innovation through a customer lens?

A leading private bank sought to innovate for customer centricity and market leadership.


The wealth management business has changed profoundly during the last decade. Clients increasingly expect tailored advice based on their unique needs, as well as access to intuitive digital tools and personalized experiences. This observation applies to those with varying levels of assets and a wide range of holdings that are not limited to standard financial assets.

At one of Europe’s leading financial services institutions, management of the reputable private banking business knew it needed to rethink its approach to customer service if it was to shape a value proposition that would sustain its market leadership. Senior executives recognized not only the need to make near-term changes to enhance specific capabilities but also that a mindset of continuous innovation was necessary to fall in line with constantly rising customer expectations and rapid-paced technological advancement.

Specifically, the bank sought greater visibility into its customers’ needs, goals and the major life events it would be facing, as well as full visibility across assets, both bankable and non-bankable. With limited insight, the bank was challenged to generate data-driven recommendations for appropriate investments or portfolio refinements. Further, end-to-end investment processes needed to shift from product centric to customer centric since individual clients expected that all products would have concrete solutions to help them achieve their personal goals. Placing their needs, ambitions and objectives at the core of the investment environment was key in responding to the industry-wide request.

Perhaps the most powerful change involved customers’ progressing preferences for richer digital experiences. They increasingly felt the need for more options to engage with the bank — using diverse channels, such as face-to-face meetings, phone and self-service portals, as well as new digital tools for different tasks and at different points in their banking journeys. Such a hybrid model, which is rapidly becoming a baseline in the industry, required a more flexible approach to customer experience design, as well as operational and cultural changes. The bank’s existing technology framework, processes and organizational structure prevented it from delivering integrated hybrid experiences.

Such enhancements were imperative given that high-net-worth individuals and families were now looking for the bank to integrate a broad range of services, including retirement planning, tax planning and legal guidance, within their banking journeys.

This rising demand presented a growth opportunity for the bank but also a competitive threat. It opened the door for other players to expand and create integrated wealth management offerings built on stronger value propositions to support the bank’s current clientele. The bank chose the EY organization for its deep understanding of the evolving private banking market, its unique global insights to the market, a successful track record in designing front-facing, tech-enabled solutions and, most importantly, a proven ability to strategize and implement end-to-end transformation initiatives.

The better the answer

Blending high-touch and high-tech for a visionary approach

A new model addressed the critical dimensions of change, including strategy, people and technology.


EY teams adopted a future-back approach both to devise the strategy and to translate the vision into a clear and actionable roadmap. Extensive market research and analysis led to the identification of essential areas for transformation, which were aligned to both evolving customer needs and the future innovations necessary to win in an intensely competitive environment.

These new capabilities would enable the bank to deliver the right services, and advice, to the right client, at the right time — while shifting from today’s fragmented multichannel touch points to seamless integration of omnichannel experiences across all products and services.

While market perceptions may be focused intensely on delivering customer-centric services, EY teams understood that a clear discrepancy exists between what is communicated externally and what can be achieved today — at an industry level. A move from managing perceptions to delivering concrete services would require working closely with stakeholders across the organization to define the long-term vision. That vision was an integrated advisory model built on the core components of:

  • Wealth planning expertise woven into a goal-based advisory model
  • Investment products and services personalized for each client’s goals and preferences
  • Consolidated views of client wealth
  • Enhanced capabilities to produce data-driven insights and deliver guidance
  • Highly personalized omnichannel experiences

Through the experience of EY teams, the client will have the ability to recommend products to its customers in line with their goals while considering their personal preferences and optimizing their likelihood of reaching their desired goals.

This approach brings together the best of the bank’s tailored expertise, personalized advice and tech-enabled, digital delivery — the high-value hybrid model that more customers expect today — enabling it to set the stage for continuous innovation.

The strategy was structured to produce value in the near term even as it transforms every link in the value chain over the long term. Unlike overly theoretical change strategies, this plan was designed for action — that is, immediate-term execution and implementation. The transformation plan addressed four critical dimensions of change:

  • Strategy: The overall approach was informed by deep customer insight, including interviews and surveys with more than 1,600 clients, as well as input from a large number of employees. The research was key to enable smarter segmentation of the client base while serving as the core of the 11 newly created working groups — each dedicated to specific aspects of the value chain but leading to one central goal. This segmentation and development marked the first step in creating personalization capabilities and building relationships based on lifetime customer value. Strong leadership support and advocacy were vital in defining the strategy and — even more importantly — creating urgency around the need for execution.
  • People and culture: Senior leaders understood that technology alone was not enough for successful transformation. The people and culture had to change, too, with the adoption of new ways of working and the definition of new roles and responsibilities. Communication and education through town hall presentations, events, trainings, workshops and in-office marketing helped promote adoption. These activities confirmed that people and teams across the business and at every level of the organization understood the business case for change and recognized how their jobs would be impacted.
  • Organizational structure: The plan called for cross-functional teams to apply the principles of design thinking and agile methodologies to co-create services with clients and internal stakeholders. Through close collaboration with EY teams and internal subject-matter professionals, an understanding was developed of how these two elements could achieve organizational goals. This was the key in moving toward a culture of collaboration based on a shared commitment of satisfying clients.
  • Technology: Technology was prioritized as the foundation to deliver customized and optimal advice. At the same time, it generated incremental value by deploying tools and solutions that reduced administrative burdens and supported sales with data-driven insights. The solution development and customer experience teams worked closely together by creating small collaboration groups to confirm that the new technology offered features that directly addressed client needs. By making front-office operations more efficient, advisors were free to engage with clients on higher-value tasks that strengthen relationships.

The better the world works

The keys to success: rigorous execution and the right technology

Customer centricity takes hold across the organization, thanks to new skills and new ways of working.


As EY teams progressed through the four critical dimensions of change, the initial phase of the transformation uncovered some lessons learned that were the keys to success:


  • Utilizing a hands-on approach and emphasizing strategy execution
  • Infusing the necessary skills and methodologies into ongoing operations to achieve scale
  • Implementing a future-back approach to innovation that prioritizes investments based on their ability to drive results today and ongoing relevance tomorrow
  • Embracing true customer-centricity principles at all times and for all activities — shifting away from the traditional product-centric and regulatory-driven views


During implementation, the bank started integrating data to gain more holistic views of clients’ holdings, as well as their needs and objectives, to set the foundation for richer conversations. It also began developing minimally viable products that meet specific client and market needs. In addition, financial models are currently in development, based on the targeted gains in share of wallet and other metrics.


"Achieving customer centricity in private banking is a constantly moving target due to industry megatrends, tech-driven disruption and rising customer expectations. Beyond suitable investment products, banks must seek to build platforms, systems and cultures that are necessary to serve individuals and families with scalable and highly personalized services and experiences," said Mike Lee, EY Global Wealth & Asset Management Leader.


Looking ahead, the private bank is focused on building systems and capabilities to accelerate delivery, specifically looking to continue the collaboration with the EY organization to design, develop and launch new products at speed to further help enable the business to meet its customers’ needs.

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