Events: The newly appointed US ambassador made a surprise appearance at Monday’s ABAL luncheon on private banking.
Photo: Luc Deflorenne
Robert A. Mandell was only confirmed on October 21 and arrived in the Grand Duchy within the past few days.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg conference was one of his first public events here, although he will not officially take up his duties for several more days. During the networking aperitif Mandell spontaneously introduced himself to several attendees, with no aides in sight.
After an introduction by AMCHAM chief Paul Schonenberg, Mandell told the audience: “I appreciate the opportunity to be here and appreciate the opportunity to represent President Barack Obama.”
The ambassador said he was keen to work with AMCHAM member because he was “interested in trade and economy, where my background is.” Mandell said he used to be a lawyer “then I got a real job as a businessman.”
He added that he had served on the president’s export council during the past two years, so “I look forward to working with all of you to make Luxembourg a great partner with the US” in the area of trade.
Mandell is expected to present his credentials to the Grand Duke on November 16.
Andreas Przewloka, head of UBS Luxembourg and head of the banks’ wealth management business in Benelux & Austria, then spoke about the changing face of private banking in the Grand Duchy.
He said that market turbulence would continue to be a fact of life that would force private banks to improve their performance, while reducing their fees and therefore their margins.
Przewloka also predicted that a schism would emerge within Luxembourg’s banking sector. Market and regulatory pressures will force financial institutions to make further costly investments in technology and people. As a consequence he said it was possible that consolidation would bring the number of banks in the Grand Duchy from 140 “down dramatically to below 50.”
He said it was likely that a handful of large global banks would take the lead in Luxembourg with a number of smaller players rounding out the field. Przewloka also stressed that a reduction in the number of banks would not necessarily equate to a reduction in financial sector jobs.
At the same time, Przewloka was optimistic about the future of the Grand Duchy’s financial centre. He explained that Luxembourg had “unequal investment fund expertise” combined with private banking expertise that is “really unique” in the world. This combination is increasingly important when it comes to creating the investment structures that the high net wealth clientele will be looking for in the coming years, he said.