Historically, it has always been tough to figure out which private bank is best, so this year we set up a role-play situation.

We short-listed six banks and gave them the profile of a dotcommer who had sold his business and had $4 million of investable assets. His domicile was in the UK, he lived in Hong Kong, and he planned to have two children. His concerns were with capital preservation, tax planning and not having too much exposure to the US stock market ? but he wanted a return of around 10% per annum. All in all, about 20 hours of meetings went into this process, and it was enlightening.

The personality of the private banker was an important consideration, but given this was an award for an institution and not an individual, we tried to look beyond the individual. In most cases, teams of experts were rolled out ? to give investment advice and tax advice. All the short-listed banks were good, and coming to a final decision was not at all easy.

Why CS Private Bank (CSPB)? Of all the banks, we felt this was the best overall. It managed to combine very high service, with common sense advice and an investment proposal that was excellently tailored to the peccadilloes of this particular client.

The wealth planning and tax advice was very good, especially the way CS Private Bank explained the issues facing a UK domiciled person and related them to the age of the client in question (30 years old).

CSPB explained what needed to be done and attempted to keep things simple. Unlike other banks, it did not try to foist an expensive (and from inheritance tax purposes, bad) discretionary investment trust on the client. It felt the client could avoid costs using an offshore Singapore account and writing an appropriate will. Given there were no children yet, a trust was not advised for the moment.

However, CSPB explained what may need to be done ? with a timetable ? over the next 10 years, and how potential domicile changes (Cyprus, for example) and insurance bonds could be used. CSPB also stood out on a second front ? with its investment advice and the clarity with which it was explained. It did the best job of listening to what the client wanted. That is to say, it registered the client's strong concern about the US and abided by it in as constructive a way as possible. It also avoided putting the client into mainly its own funds, and gave very good explanations for choosing particular fund managers. Its emphasis on capital preservation, while taking on the equity risk required to hit a 10% return was well explained.

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