"I like the fact that finance is where things happen, and the feeling of having your own business that wealth management gives you." But one element of the job stands out for Barclays Wealth UK and Ireland Managing Director Rory Gilbert: "It was the personal contact that attracted me. You get a client and look after them for the rest of their life - and, if you have a really good relationship, they want their partners and their children to come to you too."
But how is such a relationship built? "The business is about giving advice. You need to match each client with appropriate solutions from the enormous range of products we offer." So private banking requires both an ability to understand the needs of a variety of clients - "no two are the same" - and a rigorous understanding of financial technicalities: "Each area on which you advise has a whole industry behind it, and the bankers here at Barclays Wealth have to understand them all." But there is also room for focus - private bankers at Barclays Wealth can be specialists, in products or people: "Some bankers work on a particular kind of client, for example, entrepreneurs in the Thames Valley, and immerse themselves in the issues these individuals have. Others are hedge funds or private equity experts. Others like marketing in particular, and enjoy going out and finding the Thames Valley entrepreneurs, or indeed hedge fund managers in Mayfair, oil and gas people in Aberdeen, or a person in Dublin who has made a lot of money buying and selling property."
The Gateway asks Rory to tell us more about how this process of fitting clients to products works. "I think most people in the industry fall into the trap of selling products for the sake of selling them. Our focus is different." The Gateway realises that Barclays Wealth works at the point where banking meets behavioural science: "We sit down with the client and understand their financial personality. It's about working out who the client is." Rory describes how a client's attitude to risk is key: "You have to know what taking a particular risk means to people, whether they see it as an opportunity or as a potential loss of money." There's the added complication that people's views may not be clear: "Managing money is often emotional - objective decisions often rely on subjective feelings. It's about the heart and the head, and you need to satisfy both." He reminds The Gateway that his clients are often entrepreneurs and so tend to have a greater appetite for risk than most, but, "you have to keep checking", as attitudes can change: "Life is a journey, and, as a private banker, you learn what is constant and what is volatile for each client."
Rory then speaks about how Barclays Wealth itself is on a journey: "We're growing in every geography - a massive strategic push from which we're hoping the whole Barclays group can benefit." Rory explains how Barclays Wealth works with other sections of the global firm: "Our wealthy clients have complex needs - we're certainly not just a current account and chequebook service. They often want the technical sophistication of an investment bank, and if so, our role is to provide access to that for them. We act as our clients' ambassador in working, for example, with Barcap."
The Gateway has realised that it takes remarkable talents to be a successful private banker. Barclays Wealth recruits those who they feel have the potential to succeed in the field onto their competitive three-year long graduate programme, which involves some tough challenges, in particular, sitting for the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification, but provides what must be an invaluable training structure for recruits, including an international placement.
What kind of graduates is Barclays Wealth looking for? Rory returns once more to the combination of technical understanding and personal intuition he described earlier: "It's about understanding what people need so that you can give them the right solution. You need to have intellectual rigour to be able to break down complex problems. But you also need an empathy which, unlike technical knowledge, we can't teach you." How does this quality manifest itself in a person? "When you fly BA or Ryanair, do you notice how they fulfill their promises? Would you answer the phone on a Thursday evening when you're about to leave the office for a weekend away? Do you find it rewarding when people want to spend time with you because you can help them?"
Rory's other must-have is a sense of get-up-and-go: "Self-starters stand out for me. In wealth management, you feel like you're running things yourself, and so the people who succeed tend to have made things happen in the past, for example, they've set up their own charity, or have organised a rugby tour as well as playing. Their initiatives don't have to be successful! If people have failed and bounced back up, that's great for us to hear because in this job you need to be resilient as you have to earn trust over a long time to build up a relationship with a client."
Finally, Rory tells us a story, as a last word on Barclays Wealth and what his work means to him: "A client called yesterday - they're a high street name - with a difficult question, and I felt myself straining to give him what he needed, as I hate the feeling that we're not giving a client what they're asking for. As a private banker you have to feel these kinds of emotions, which stop you from letting the phone ring more than three times. It's who you are - you feel hurt if you aren't able to give the client the service they want. Everything you do works to build extra millimetres of a trust that is powerful, but can be destroyed very quickly. Service always comes first, and if you get it right, things really hum."