Interview – Mark Evans

What do banks offer in terms of philanthropy services and what are the benefits for both bank and client? Caroline Hartnell spoke to some of the leaders in this field: Mario Marconi at UBS, Mark Evans at Coutts, Philippe Depoorter at Banque de Luxembourg and Nathalie Sauvanet at BNP Paribas.

What does Coutts offer its clients in the way of philanthropy services?

Networking, education and advice. The opportunity to learn from other clients of Coutts and from our own experience of working with clients all over the world. Clients who are involved in supporting organizations involved in just about every aspect of philanthropy you can imagine. Over 3,000 clients have attended the Coutts Forums for Philanthropy now, and we are looking forward to Kevin Spacey talking about Philanthropy and the Arts in September.

Are there aspects of your clients’ philanthropy that you don’t get involved in?

Yes. We don’t recommend individual charities. We focus on advising on giving strategies, helping clients research causes, conduct site visits and evaluate impact. With a small specialist team, we leave the analysis of charitable organizations to others who have the resources to review individual organizations in detail.

Why did you start offering these services?

Because clients were saying that they were finding it more difficult to give money away than make it. Because they were saying that they didn’t know where to start. Because some of them had had bad experiences of supporting charities and wanted to know what else they could do. But also because we realized that by talking to clients about philanthropy, we could get to know them a lot better and build a much stronger relationship …

What is the benefit to the bank of doing this?

There’s a temptation to say that the benefits are immeasurable, but since we work for a bank we have got to be very precise about the way in which we add value to the bank as well as the client, so we are very clear on what the benefits are.

First, it’s about the number of new clients that we help bankers attract to Coutts, because we can offer something that a lot of other private banks still don’t and we are perceived as a market leader. Second, it’s about the amount of incremental assets that we can help to attract, because, for example, a client decides to set up a charitable trust with us or transfers non-charitable assets to us because the relationship with us is so much stronger than anywhere else.

Third, it’s about improving levels of client satisfaction, because we are engaging with them on a whole different level by introducing them to other clients, other specialists, new ways of looking at things, new research. Fourth, it’s about how many new clients our existing clients are referring to the bank because they have become ambassadors. Fifth, it’s about the PR that is generated by showcasing client causes and helping to inspire others to get involved in philanthropy.

I believe that Coutts is planning to move into Europe and Asia and the Middle East. Do you plan to offer philanthropy advice in these areas?

That’s right. In fact, we recently recruited Denise Kenyon-Rouvinez as Head of International Family Business and Philanthropy in Switzerland. Denise will be spending 80 per cent of her time working with clients from the Middle East and Asia. We are also in the process of recruiting a Head of International Family Business and Philanthropy in Asia itself. The most exciting thing about setting up a global team is the opportunity to start connecting clients of Coutts and RBS Coutts globally, giving clients an opportunity to joint venture with others on international projects.

Isn’t this going to be quite challenging in areas where experts are virtually non-existent?

Actually, I have been surprised at the amount of interest there has been from people working in the Middle East and Asia. We held our first philanthropy events in Hong Kong and Singapore a few years ago, and our first Middle East philanthropy event in Dubai last November. Both sparked interest from members of family offices as well as from the voluntary sector itself.

In many ways our ideal candidate is someone who comes with first-hand experience of the voluntary sector as well as working with high-net-worth donors. What will attract them to Coutts and RBS Coutts is the fact that philanthropy is being thought of as a core offering, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

Mark Evans is Head of the Wealth Institute at Coutts. Email

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