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Wealth Manager: RBC's King on building the bank's UK strategy

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by James Phillipps on Aug 08, 2013 at 00:01

RBC Wealth Management’s George King jokes that coming from an institutional fixed income background, the sums involved on the private client side sounded more like ‘rounding errors’ when he first moved across, but the opportunity to build up a business soon won him over.

King joined the Canadian private client manager in late 2010, at the beginning of an ambitious expansion drive being spearheaded by its then head of investment and former Wealth Manager cover star Tracy Maeter. A top six player globally, RBC had been punching below its weight in the UK and in what has become a clear theme running through his career King was drawn to the opportunity to turn it into a private client titan on these shores.

‘We already had a credible base in terms of what we have here and there were already good people doing good work, but we needed additional institutional processes and rigour, and we needed to bulk up the teams and introduce a broader range of skills,’ Kind says.

‘It was not about starting from scratch but about building the platform so it could operate at a higher level with scale for large clients.’

King, who joined as head of portfolio strategy, admits that in the early days he was predominantly office-bound, working alongside Maeter and private client head Philip Harris to put the structures and teams in place to broaden its offering. They hired a raft of private bankers and client-facing staff, while at the same time strengthening investment teams across the board, building out the bank’s capabilities in fixed income research and fund manager research in particular.

The firm now offers a wide range of private banking services targeted at high net-worth and ultra-high net-worth individuals, from investment advisory, discretionary asset management, tax planning, credit and trusts. Clients are free to pick and choose which of these services they use, which could range from full discretionary services to buying individual stocks or hedging for their existing portfolio.

 

‘We were spending the vast majority of our time sitting at our desks as we were building up the proposition, but that is now built and leveraged and I can go off somewhere to speak to a prospective client,’ King says.

The next stage of the bank’s growth is being driven by a focus on raising the profile of the brand and King believes the firm has already made significant inroads on this front. He jokes that when RBC sponsored the Chelsea Flower Show, people were querying whether the ‘C’ in the firm’s name was meant to be an ‘S’, but he says awareness of the brand is now significantly stronger.

‘How often in this market do you get to completely define yourself? The brand was virtually unknown whereas with most brands it is hard to change perceptions. For example, if you look at Honda you will always think of it making reliable cars rather than luxury ones,’ he says.

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