Interviews – Financial – Alf Chubb

Alf Chubb became a private banker at a leading City bank after a year out working as a cowboy in Argentina. He got his banking job by having a drink with the right person at the right time and has now been there for 18 months

What is your day-to-day role?
If you’re on the relationship management side you spend an awful lot of time waiting outside hotel doors when you’re prospecting for clients usually with a bunch of other private bankers who all want to speak to the same client to try and get his business as well. If you’re on the investment advisory side like me, you are the product, your client brings you his money and between the two of you you come to a decision on what to put that money into. You highlight the risks, keep them informed and keep them happy.

What are the hours like?
The hours aren’t quite as punishing as investment banking but they’re still pretty tough. You’re expected to be in at 7.30am and you work 12-14 hour days.

How does it differ from other types of banking?
If you’re in investment banking your life revolves around talking to businessmen, involves an enormous amount of pressure, the buck stops with you and it’s a colossal amount of work. Private banking is much more to do with understanding your area of expertise, although it may be that you’re still dealing with large amounts of money. Then there’s the travel and the client interface, which are enjoyable. It’s really good for people who enjoy talking to other people, but also find finance interesting.

What is happening within the sector?
Advisory is becoming much more popular. High net worth individuals is a massive growth sector particularly with the wealth effect from the internet, and banks chase that wealth because they can earn high commissions from it, so there’s a big push into private banking. With the stockmarket booming the way it has, a lot of people have really enjoyed having an active role in it.

What do you enjoy most about you job?
I love the markets, I love watching the stories and the news. I really enjoy talking to clients, it’s a real joy to discuss things with them. I think most people would say that when it is going well it is the best job in the world. You’re making someone else money, you’re making them happy, and when it’s going badly there’s usually not a lot you can do about it.

Is private banking still synonymous with the old boys’ network?
Less so now. It used to be that you’d have good relationships with your old-school lord or lady and you’d spend a lot of time in hotels wining and dining them and talking about where we’d invest their money. Because the area’s suddenly become very competitive, that’s changed. What the client really cares about these days is performance. Rather than having one fabulous lunch a year they’d rather have a phone call a day talking through how things are going.

What kind of qualities do you need?
You definitely need to be numerate. And because you’re dealing with individuals you have to be very persuasive. If you’re on the relationship management side you have beauty parades where basically you’ve got to go and sell your bank and its products. And when people ring up to complain at you, you can’t take things personally, you have to be quite hard.

How does the gender balance work out in private banking?
I think it’s very evenly matched and because of the people skills involved girls are well suited. And the atmosphere is very different, while it might still be a bit old school, it’s not the same macho environment as it is in investment banking.

What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
When things are bad, like now, you can’t not pick up the phone; and one of the things they’re paying you for is to bitch at you on the phone when the performance hasn’t been so good. You’ve got to remind them why we made the decisions in the first place. You get some clients who ignore your advice and do something anyway, and when it goes wrong they’ll still complain.

What would you say to graduates considering private banking as a career?
Get an internship if you possibly can, it makes it much easier to get a job. It’s very competitive otherwise, and you end up having to invite yourself out for drinks with a lot of bankers.

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Business, interview