Ian Brodie interviewed Francesco Grosoli, CEO of CMB Monaco
Why would a wealthy client choose CMB Monaco over another private bank? There is a widespread perception in Monaco among the expats that I know and hear from that the banks are all pretty much the same and there’s some negative stigma around them.
Indeed, unfortunately and partly due to the rising compliance requirements, banks have a tendency to be a problem for their clients rather than a solution-maker. That is something that we want to change, within the scope of existing regulations, using common sense and always starting with the client’s needs.
Clients always have a key question : ‘is my money safe ?’. To answer this important question : look into ratios. I would suggest looking into the bank’s key financial highlights when choosing which private bank to go with. CMB’s ratios are excellent, making us one of the strongest banks in the market. Our CET1 ratio of 47 percent is way above the minimum required capital ratio set at eight percent for financial institutions and shows our stability. At the end of the year we’ve passed the milestone of a billion in equity.
Secondly: I have decided to really focus on the client. After the crisis of 2008, banks have lost the focus on why they exist. We exist because we serve clients: if we don’t listen to what they want we will disappear. We need to get back to the basic, which is “we are here to help.” We need to care about the client.
HEAD OFFICE IN THE HEART OF MONACO
Thirdly : we have a distinctive advantage at CMB Monaco, we have our head office in the heart of the Principality. This allows for unparalleled agility and ensures a rapid decision-making process – lengthy processes are part of the problem you mentioned in your question.
This flexibility and ability to provide a rapid and tailored response to our clients’ needs differentiates us from banks that have their headquarters abroad and a local branch in Monaco.
The local market tends to be very competitive. If we decrease the margins we won’t be able to increase the quality. Here the challenge is to raise the level of the service we are delivering to make sure the client is satisfied.
In the luxury sector clients recognise that there is value and they are willing to pay. Unfortunately the private banking industry has forgotten along the way that we need to constantly raise the quality of service if we want to be recognised as a luxury service.
Your new slogan and brand campaign have been very visible since we last spoke. Why did you chose the slogan ‘banking ahead’ ?
BECAUSE IT IS OUR MISSION
We have a mission to partner with high-net-worth individuals and add value to their wealth. In doing so, we promote a financial culture that always prioritises a forward-looking attitude and the ability to plan ahead.
BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A VUCA WORLD WHERE WE NEED TO EMBRACE STRATEGIC FORESIGHT
We live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), in which technology acts – even more so over the last year – as an accelerator and multiplier of opportunities, so it is more important than ever to anticipate and embrace strategic foresight.
If you don’t adapt faster than the others, you are left behind.
When it comes to financial decisions, you need to ‘think ahead’ and your private banker, and the whole team at your disposal are here to help you do so.
Covid-19 has showed how fast and agile we can be : in two weeks we deployed all remote IT service, the bankers were responding, the trading room was active… We saw these things coming faster than the others. We deployed a Covid testing station for staff on site and the staff is delighted to be in a safe environment. Linking agility, foresight, and scenario planning has been key.
Our change of identity has been pretty strong. Covid-19 forced us to cancel the event we had planned for the launch, yet there has been a change of perception of CMB Monaco since then. We are also now communicating in English, which has a much stronger impact on the local clientele, which we have been focusing even more so due to Covid-19.
In terms of your offer, how is CMB Monaco ‘banking ahead’?
TAILOR-MADE SERVICES FOR EACH CUSTOMER SEGMENT
The bank itself has changed a lot over the last two years and it is just the beginning. We have already reorganised our offer around four key customer segments, each of them having access to specific services most suited to their needs.
HAVING A FULL TEAM AT YOUR SERVICE
We put ‘banking ahead’ in action by ensuring that our clients have a full team at their service to make the right financial decisions now, with a clear vision of where they want to be heading to.
The client now has a full team at his or her service: an investment advisor, a credit specialist, an ALM specialist, and, of course, a private banker acting as a ‘chef d’orchestre.”
BANKING AHEAD IS ALSO ABOUT HAVING A VISION: REDESIGNING THE CONCEPT OF PRIVATE BANKING AND THE PRIVATE INVESTMENT BANKING MODEL
We want to redesign the concept of private banking and the private investment banking model. CMB Monaco has both a very strong Monaco DNA and is part of the Mediobanca Group, through which we have the opportunity to leverage the synergies with Mediobanca’s corporate & investment banking services in order to offer the best solutions for our clients and position ourselves as an opportunity maker.
As the CEO of CMB Monaco how do you ensure that your organisation lives by this slogan at the operational level?
It is all about: 1) scenario planning, 2) strategic foresight, and 3) anticipating future trends.
We were able to face Covid-19 with no disruption of our activities, because we knew having quality IT equipment, investing in cyber-security and in remote and secured means of communicating with our teams and clients, were all important investments to make. We had already identified an increasing trend towards digitalisation and had taken steps to embrace this in our strategy.
So at the operational level, ‘banking ahead’ means thinking about potential disruptions that we might face and how they could impact operations, as well as looking into a range of possible futures and emerging trends.
How can you keep this ‘ahead vision’ whilst facing major disruptions such as Covid-19 ?
First of all I have to say I am very proud of my teams, they all have displayed incredible agility and resilience.
The management committee has been very present through internal communications, especially during the lockdown. The worst thing to do is to lead without sharing information. Therefore, the leitmotiv throughout the crisis has been to communicate internally. We are here to help them and inform them at every step.
Sixty-five percent of our staff is still at home. The front office (bankers and assistants) is rotating so we make sure that we can always continue to serve the client and ensure operational continuity.
How can we keep this ahead vision alive? We need to be able to act in the present and think in the future. ‘Banking ahead’ is about linking the present and the future more tightly – this vision has not been disrupted by Covid-19 but on the contrary it showed us the importance of having this visionary mindset.
Being able to perceive how the present can lead to possible futures: for our industry and for the ones our clients invest in is at the core of our philosophy.
Strategic foresight and the ability to act NOW are not in contradiction but complimentary.
WHEN FACING DISRUPTIONS THE ABILITY TO ADAPT IS PUT TO THE TEST
This is where being an agile bank becomes handy: when you’re facing a disruption as important as Covid-19 has been, your ability to adapt and to be flexible is put to the test.
As far as we are concerned, this health crisis has acted as an accelerator of change for us. We have been led to simplify our processes, to embrace remote working and to increase the use of digital technology.
LIVING BY THE BANKING AHEAD PHILOSOPHY WILL HELP US NAVIGATE THESE MURKY WATERS
I am confident our revised positioning, our ability to envision future opportunities, and living each day by our slogan ‘banking ahead’, will help us navigate these murky waters and ensure we continue to deliver the best customer experience to our clients.
PHOTO: Francesco Grosoli, CEO of CMB Monaco