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The Evolution of Private Banking: Susie Grehl

The face of private banking is changing and Commonwealth Private Executive General Manager Susie Grehl says she is committed to providing a personalized, diverse and exclusive banking service to her clients.

Wealth is a private matter. Everyone has their own definition of wealth, as well as their own idea of how to achieve it. What works for one person may not work for another, which leaves our financial institutions in a tight spot.

And the face of wealth is changing, with a historic transfer of finances already underway. The better part of US$2.33 trillion in assets will be passed down between generations in the coming decades.

There is no catch-all solution for this diverse new generation, and the banks understand this. That’s why several offer private banking services, though it’s often not common knowledge.

Commonwealth Private, for instance, is considered Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CommBank) best kept secret. It provides banking and advisory services tailored specifically for clients with high or ultra-high net worths (there are minimum household income and investable income requirements, depending on your bank).

Every client enjoys the personalized attention of a dedicated banker, who takes the time to gain a deep understanding of their financial situation in order to provide thoughtful and tailored advice and recommendations.

It’s an approach that demonstrates CommBank’s appreciation of the evolution of private banking as time goes by.

Changing Times

“The face of private banking in Australia is changing, and so too are client expectations,” says Susie Grehl, Executive General Manager, Wealth & Private at CommBank. “Some clients have built wealth over generations, while others have come into wealth more quickly. No two journeys are alike.”

The diversity of the demographic seeking the benefits of private banking is reflected in CommBank’s latest advertising campaign, which showcases the spectrum of private clients.

“Personally, I’m incredibly energized by the stories of women I went to law school with 20 years ago who’ve risen to the top of their fields or created a business from scratch,” Grehl says.

“The face of private banking in Australia is changing, and so too are client expectations.”

“Other private clients come into wealth as stewards of their family’s estate, focused on passing on wealth with care to the next generation. That’s a big responsibility.”

All this is to say that private banking no longer has a ‘type’, and in today’s world of unconventional wealth building, the practice is for more people than ever.

“The criteria for what qualifies a person for private banking and wealth services varies, but ideally it’s a long-term relationship, working in partnership with your banker on defined goals.”

Personalized Approach

However they come to be a part of the Commonwealth Private family, clients are able to partake in the service however they choose, and CommBank has shrewdly provided a broad range of ways to do so.

“Different things matter to different people,” Grehl says. “Some clients value the highly personal relationship they have with their private banker, who are specialists in complex lending and can take care of all their banking, while others value the simplicity and self service of the CommBank App.”

Those new to the world of significant wealth can find a variety of avenues to build on their nest egg.

“Some really value the opportunity to broaden their networks, build their knowledge or gain exclusive access to investment products and services not ordinarily available to retail investors.”

“I believe diversity in all its forms is critical for success.”

Grehl’s vision for private banking ensures inclusivity and exclusivity share top billing.

“I want our clients to feel that the service they get from Commonwealth Private is as unique as they are, highly personalized to help them create the life they want, distinct from anyone else,” she explains.

“For those interested in wealth creation, we pride ourselves on offering hard to find, expertly curated institutional grade investment products and insightful content integrated with signature events and networking opportunities.

“We strive to be the trusted partner who stands alongside our clients as they grow and protect their wealth, for their families and the next generation.”

Driving Change

At the heart of private banking is problem-solving and analytical thinking, areas in which Grehl has a wealth of experience.

Originally a mergers and acquisitions lawyer with King & Wood Mallesons, she moved into business development and marketing before finding her groove as a Principal at Boston Consulting Group in New York City.

“New York operates at a higher gear than most other cities which very much agrees with me: straight-talking, fast-paced, outcomes focused. I loved it,” she recalls.

“I thrive when solving ambiguous problems and driving change at pace.”

“I thrive when solving ambiguous problems and driving change at pace. It was a tough environment, but doing hard things is a great way to learn.”

Upon her return to Australia, Grehl led the transformation function for the private wealth business at another major Australian bank before joining CommBank.

“You could say I’m a jack of all trades, but I genuinely believe that diversity, in all its forms, is critical to the success of any strategy, team and business,” she says. “As a first generation Asian Australian woman leading a private bank, I’m conscious that I’m different, and over time, I’ve come to learn that different is good.”

Diversity of Investments

Grehl’s breadth of background has imbued the Commonwealth Private team with an inherent ability to offer diversity at all levels.

“Diversity of investments is incredibly important to private clients,” she says. “Investing can be highly attitudinal, so we cater for a broad variety of objectives.

“Whether it’s diversification into a set of multi-asset class portfolios, access to more niche offerings such as alternatives or institutional grade products, or exposure to ESG investing or thematics, private wealth clients can customize their investments to suit their goals and risk appetite.”

Her leadership and direction has also helped provide Commonwealth Private with a strong sense of identity that sets it apart from the competition.

“Private clients expect the very best service,” she says. “Our clients enjoy this both digitally and in person via priority service, fast-tracked assessment and fulfillment.”

These sorts of offerings are suited to the new money of today, which Grehl says has a different mindset to that of its predecessors.

“They’re younger, digitally savvy, more likely to be women and much more attuned to sustainable, inclusive business models and responsible investing,” she says.

Female Focus

To respond to this emerging clientele, Commonwealth Private has partnered with international financial education firm, Sophia, to provide a variety of courses.

“We want to help our female clients feel confident in being the beneficiary of inheritance, or coming into their own wealth,” Grehl says.

Courses include ‘Your money mindset’, ‘Introduction to investing’, ‘Ways to invest’ and ‘Money and retirement’.

“We see this as supporting women in particular as financial fluency in Australia is still disparate across genders, with a lower percentage of women feeling confident with their finances,” she says.

“They’re younger, digitally savvy, more likely to be women and much more attuned to sustainable, inclusive business models and responsible investing.”

The barriers to equitable wealth creation are, she adds, not only exacerbated by certain embedded societal and behavioral norms, but also by a perceived lack of access to education, an imbalance Commonwealth Private seeks to address.

“We want to provide women with the confidence and the knowledge they need to get started,” she says. “Educating and inspiring women to be empowered about their financial choices is something I’m very passionate about.”

Private banking isn’t what it used to be. Rather than protecting the coffers of a privileged few, Commonwealth Private is helping grow the wealth of the next generation.

“The world is constantly changing and I’m a firm believer that change always equals opportunity if you have the right mindset and support,” Grehl says.

“With our guidance, sensible diversification coupled with an active understanding of secular trends can be translated into astute opportunities.”

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