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    COO in focus - an interview with Carol Chan, COO for Asia, on Lombard Odier's major milestones in the region

    COO in focus - an interview with Carol Chan, COO for Asia, on Lombard Odier's major milestones in the region

    This interview was feature on Asian Private Banker's COO Focus in March 2024.


    1) Reflecting on 2023, what were your bank’s major milestones and how did you reach them? Conversely, what were the setbacks and challenges encountered along the way, and what measures were taken to surmount them?

    2023 was a year of transition where we saw a rapidly evolving world – geopolitically, economically, technologically and socially. Despite the challenges, we remained focussed on growth – in both our people and the technology we adopt.

    A key milestone would be the completion of our move to our beautiful new Singapore office in December. We took on an additional 8,000 square feet of office space, with a design that is centred on large spaces and flexible work zones to foster closer collaboration and communication. In line with our  “New Ways of Working (NWOW)” project driven out of our global headquarters, significant improvements have been made to the workplace and IT infrastructures. This allows greater flexibility for staff to adapt to new work trends including hot desking, increased mobility and working from home.

    Digital transformation has always been a priority at Lombard Odier, underpinning a holistic user experience that in turn attracts and retains our client base for business growth. Our proprietary platform, G2, is renowned amongst professional investors as one of the most sophisticated wealth management platform in the industry. Private clients can easily access real-time portfolio data, conduct administrative functions, execute payments and access relevant, timely research to discuss investment ideas with their bank advisors. External asset managers can use it to efficiently manage portfolios, and family offices can leverage it to consolidate and control customer accounts.

    Last year, we have crossed the midway mark of our 7-year project to build the next generation platform – GX. This improved platform will see an elevation of user journeys, from digital client acquisition and onboarding, to portfolio management, targeted investment advisory and sales management and front office efficiency. Amidst the technology innovations that are in progress, we updated our workflow to enhance efficiency and established a matrix governance structure to strengthen accountability.

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    Digital transformation has always been a priority at Lombard Odier, underpinning a holistic user experience that in turn attracts and retains our client base for business growth.

    2) What is your bank’s operational strategy going into 2024? What targets is the bank setting itself, and how does it plan to meet them? What challenges do you anticipate along the way?

    Moving into 2024, we will continue with our growth plans and focus on our Business Transformation Program. A key focus for the bank is to functionally align our Key Performance and Risk Indicators to standard global measurements and improve overall competitiveness. This includes streamlining workflows in areas such as client onboarding and account life cycle management with the overall aim of enhancing the client experience.  

    Change Management is always a great challenge and we focus on stakeholder management and communication to all those impacted, and also to those not impacted by the change.  Being a globally aligned organisation gives us the opportunity to look at strategies on how we can benefit from economies of scale through centralisation, leverage best practices across the Group, and take advantage of our geographical time differences with a “follow the sun” approach. To facilitate this, we have appointed a dedicated Change Manager who was transferred to Asia from Switzerland to bringbest practices from the Group and we look forward to a smooth project implementation and integration.

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    3) The pandemic popularised work-from-home (WFH) policies and saw a rise in demand for flexible working arrangements. As we transition into a post-pandemic era, what are your bank’s policies in the areas of WFH, flexible work and parental leave? How has WFH impacted the bank’s operating costs, including the need for office space? Are flexible working arrangements and WFH here to stay for the long term?

    At Lombard Odier, we fully embrace the strong human values that are at the core of our DNA. We are here to support our people with flexible working arrangements to help encourage better work-life harmony, work productivity and work efficiencies. From a Group policy perspective, we recognise the importance of balancing professional and private life, and we provide all colleagues with flexibility at work and solutions for remote working.

    At the same time, we thrive on the synergies and ideas that we create through close collaboration and face-to-face discussions as One Team. This is one of our core values and everybody plays a part in this. Hence, there has been no reduction made to office space as it is important for us to work in a collaborative environment.  The analogy to this is an orchestra, we need the space to create and practice together to excel.

    Aside from the uptake in office space for Singapore last year, the Hong Kong team moved into its new office in 2022 too, with an estimated 50% space increase, as operations continue to grow. As a people-centric bank, everyone has a dedicated desk in the office, with sufficient space for collaboration and relationship building.

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    At Lombard Odier, we fully embrace the strong human values that are at the core of our DNA.

    4) While technological adoption accelerated by the pandemic brought a host of benefits, this may come at the cost of the high-touch personalised services of traditional private banking. In this light, how do you maintain an equilibrium between client touch and technology?

    In recent years, private banks have indeed seen an acceleration in their digital agenda which is fundamental to the industry. However, there is still a need for client proximity and to focus on what clients need. While quality of advice and services are still what make the difference, banks who are able to augment these with strong technological capabilities will be the winners. At Lombard Odier, we have always prioritised a bespoke relationship with our clients. Our cutting-edge technology is not there to replace human interaction. It is to augment and enhance it.

    We recognise the transformative impact of technology post-pandemic but different clients have different expectations. Hence we need to be agile and be prepared. We have seen some shifts in client expectations – where clients expect a more proactive stance from the bank, as opposed to being contented with periodic updates or changes to their offerings and experience. At the height of the pandemic, a study that we conducted showed that 87% of leading families and entrepreneurs in the region believe that a bank’s degree of digitalisation will matter going forward, and there was desire for banks to offer new services and new ways of communicating as next steps in the evolution of banking.

    At the same time, clients are becoming more sophisticated. For example, 83% of respondents from the study mentioned earlier indicated that reporting capabilities are important. The ability to report a performance net of tax seems to be of particular interest to these HNWIs who typically have multi-country exposure.

    While digital advancements bring about accessibility and efficiency, we remain committed to maintaining a balance between human and digital engagement. As a private bank, the human touch remains at the heart of our value proposition. Our focus is and has always been on our clients’ needs, where technology is an enabler and a means to an end. This involves leveraging technology for operational excellence – such as engaging clients on administrative processes through digital channels to reduce costs and errors – while preserving the personal touch through dedicated relationship managers.

    At Lombard Odier, we see banking technology as a key asset and we are on a constant journey to ensure our banking platform continues to evolve – through the GX programme – to modernise and to improve the digital interactions and experience of our customers and users. But above all, we focus on what is best for the client.

    Important information

    This is a marketing communication issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”).
    It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a marketing communication.
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