The Top Private Banks and Wealth Managers awards is researched and prepared by Intellidex, a specialist financial services research house. This is the sixth year we have undertaken the survey and we develop it every year to ensure the survey best reflects the dynamics of the wealth management industry and that we are delivering a product that meets the needs of clients who make use of such firms. Our research process has two main elements.
The first is a comprehensive questionnaire that the firms complete. The main part of this is five typical client archetypes for which we ask the firms to develop a service proposal. The intention is to clarify just what areas of the market the firms specialise in and their own capabilities.
The five are: the passive lump-sum investor, the up-and-coming professional, the successful entrepreneur, the wealthy executive and the internationally wealthy family. We also interrogate the decision-making processes at the firms and their costs, and obtain details about staffing levels, offices and the size of the businesses. The responses to that questionnaire form the core part of the scoring process undertaken by the judges.
The second prong is the online client survey from which the People’s Choice award is determined. The questions are wide-ranging and designed to assess the different strengths and weaknesses of the private banks and wealth managers. The main areas of focus, though, are on satisfaction levels with products and services, and whether clients believe they are getting value for money, for fees charged. We also ask questions relating to why clients use private banks and wealth managers and whether their specific needs are being met.
Clients also add comments on aspects not covered by our multiple-choice format of questions. Here we received some valuable insights and these were used to inform the judging process.
This year 5,977 clients started the survey and 3,642 people completed it — a huge increase on last year when 2,732 clients participated.
In terms of the overall judging, we understand that firms have different areas of focus. Thus, in our minds, the individual archetype winners are at least as important as the overall awards. If a firm is the best in the industry in its specific area of focus and does not pretend to be all things to all people, it deserves recognition for that area of excellence. If a firm does not compete in a particular market segment, we do not penalise it for not having an offering for that archetype.
However, the nature of such a survey does reward the all-rounder — those firms with comprehensive offerings across all categories — when it comes to the overall award. That is one of the reasons that last year we revised the format of the awards: we no longer split private banks (firms with transactional banking) from wealth managers in all categories. We thus have one overall winner, the best wealth manager, with two supplementary awards — Top Wealth Management Boutique and Top Banking Services Firm — to recognise other segments. We also acknowledge the best institutions for five different client archetypes with individual awards.
Over the years that we have been conducting this survey, the improvement almost across the board has been noticeable. As a result, in certain categories it has become more and more difficult to differentiate between providers. Here the expertise of independent judge Prem Govender was invaluable. Govender is a former chair of the Financial Planning Institute, chair of the SA Savings Institute and a trustee of the Financial Services Consumer Education Foundation set up by the Financial Services Board. The other judges were Intellidex chairman Stuart Theobald; financial analyst Orin Tambo and project editor Colin Anthony.
The first round of assessment involves each judge scoring each firm separately for each archetype. Under the judging guidelines, we’ve tried to make this phase as quantitative as possible, though a subjective element is unavoidable.
In the second phase, scores are compared and “outlier” scores are discussed. So, if three judges gave a firm good scores but one scored it very badly, it will be interrogated.
Next we tackle the tiebreakers. When firms receive equal scores in a category, judges go through each submission again, assessing strengths and weaknesses, to determine which will be the winner.
In determining overall rankings, we average the scores from each judge per archetype and weight them according to the client segment breakdown provided by each firm.
We are always keen to widen the survey to include more institutions. We are interested in firms that straddle the gap between wealth manager and financial adviser. We would like to include firms that meet these two criteria: 1. Exclusivity in client selection such that clients on average have investable assets of over R3m. 2. Advise on total assets of at least R50m.
Such firms, however, will be included only if they ask to be. We reserve the right to determine eligibility at our sole discretion.