Marc Fassone: You have just taken over as CEO of Lombard Odier Europe. Could you tell us about your career path?
: I joined the firm in 2019 as COO and deputy CEO.
I started my career in Luxembourg more than 25 years ago in audit and management consulting. I worked in Europe for about ten years, mainly in Luxembourg and Switzerland, from where I covered Europe. I then left the consulting business to work in the banking sector, where I held management positions in Europe--in Paris, Luxembourg, Geneva and Zurich--and in Asia--in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Why did you switch to private banking?
I’m not like Obelix: I didn’t fall into it when I was a kid... It’s more of a coincidence. When I started in auditing in Luxembourg more than 25 years ago, we were mainly doing funds and a little banking. The scope was more limited. Then I asked around about the prospects for development. And my mentor--at the time this was called a ‘counselor’--Georges Kioes, pointed me towards Geneva, which is the ‘historical cradle’ of private banking. I worked in the sector first as a consultant for 10 years and then directly for a private bank. It’s a profession in which I have roots and which corresponds to me because it’s a long-term job, in the accompaniment of generations, in the management of the concerns of families, while combining tradition and innovation.
Private banking is not finance for finance’s sake, it is really finance and banking at the service of families and asset management.
What is the importance of Luxembourg for Lombard Odier Group?
We are a Swiss group and so to strengthen our access to the European market. Luxembourg, which is at the heart of Europe, is a logical choice. It’s a choice that others have made before us.
Luxembourg is the headquarters of Lombard Odier Europe SA, which is the ‘umbrella structure’ for all private banking activities in the six European countries we cover from here. We have local offices in Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain and the UK. We serve an international, mainly European, clientele.
Lombard Odier Europe has 215 employees. In addition to private banking, which employs 80 people, including a team of bankers who manage Luxembourg and European clients, we also have in Luxembourg part of our asset management entity, Lombard Odier Investment Managers, and T&O, the company that manages our IT platform.
Our ambition, the spirit of the company, is to continue to support our clients in Europe.
What are your ambitions for your company?
Our ambition, the spirit of the firm, is to continue to support our clients in Europe by means of three elements that characterise us: the competence of our specialists, the performance of our long-term investment choices and the excellence of the quality of our service. We are a private bank that combines tradition and innovation and we are very committed to the quality of service we can provide to our clients.
How does your company differ from your competitors?
In addition to the three elements just mentioned, there is the fact that we are an independent family business owned by its managing partners and the historical families that make up the group. This is a model that is becoming increasingly rare in the industry. This means that our managing partners are entrepreneurs. Their objective is not to maximise the immediate ‘return on investment’, but to aim for the long term and to pass on the company in a more solid manner to the next generation, whether children or others. As we are not listed on the stock exchange, we are completely independent and can therefore always put the interests of our clients before those of our shareholders or other stakeholders.
Clients also come to us for the confidentiality aspect which is key. This is part of the DNA of the company and of Swiss banks. It is a notion that has gone beyond old-fashioned banking secrecy. What we sell is the ability to generate performance over the long term.
What are your areas of activity?
Our business has been focused on private banking and wealth engineering for over 225 years.
In addition to private banking, we have an asset management business, mainly for the needs of our private bankers. And we have developed our own business around our in-house IT platform, which we sell to a dozen or so targeted partners who have the same needs as us. This is a recent activity in the history of our company, but it corresponds to a logic: we have acquired know-how and we want to share it with other players.
Two years behind a telephone or a camera is a long time.
One of the major themes in the marketplace is digitalisation. What is the situation regarding digitalisation in the private banking business and what is your policy in this area?
As I just mentioned, we have our own digital platform. It was designed by bankers for bankers. And so we are fortunate to have technology teams that I think are extremely strong.
In the context of the pandemic that we are going through, this own competence has enabled us to continue our activity calmly. During the first lockdown, we were able to ask our employees to work from home overnight. Just as we were able to find digital solutions to continue advising our customers. We have adapted well to this new paradigm. Like all our colleagues in the marketplace, it seems to me.
If you look at digitalisation in the broader sense, that of IT tools, it is something very important for us. We see our IT platform as a real asset. We are a traditional and innovative bank. We place a lot of emphasis on our bankers who are, in fact, the conductors of all the services of the bank in front of our client. But we also believe that IT tools are a differentiator that allows bankers to work better with their clients.
Has the covid crisis had an impact on your digitalisation policy and on the way you interact with your customers?
With the covid crisis, there was an issue of customer proximity, due diligence and maintaining the link in a business where meeting and talking is of paramount importance. We had to adapt the way in which the customer can interact with the bank. We had to provide concrete answers to practical problems such as the digital signature of new contracts or the digital presentation of new services. Our expertise as private bankers and that of our IT teams have enabled us to implement many solutions to make access to the bank easier.
The pandemic has accelerated this trend to provide customers with digital access.
If covid has been able to move things forward in terms of digitalisation in different areas, I don't dare to talk about an upheaval. However, we can feel a desire for social contact in our teams. People are happy to see each other again, to participate in face-to-face interviews as well. Two years behind a phone or a camera is a long time.
Originally published in French by and translated for Delano