After marking 12 months as CEO of Barclays Switzerland, Rahim Daya talks to us about his priorities in his new role, the economic outlook following COVID-19, and the qualities that make Switzerland unlike anywhere else in the world.

Rahim, what are your ambitions for Barclays Switzerland in Geneva and Zurich?

I took this role for one reason: growth. My first discussion with the Global Private Bank CEO, Jean-Christophe Gerard was very clear – he wanted to focus on building the business. Barclays has been in Switzerland for a long time and frankly, should be bigger.

Our competitors have more scale in the market and my impression is that they can afford to be a bit more reactive with their clients. We are in the opposite space where we need to build, build and build, and ensure our teams are laser-focused on bringing new clients to Barclays. The most common feedback we receive from new clients is that they feel lost at other banks and want a more focused, personal, and consistent approach from their bank – here, our size helps.

Geneva is our main location and Zurich is a satellite office of Geneva. In the past 12 months, however, we have doubled the size of the team in the Zurich office, which is very much central to my growth ambitions.

What is your view of the Swiss private banking market and why is it so attractive to clients?

Switzerland is the world’s number one destination for global wealth, with its strong currency, political stability, and central location in Europe being among its most attractive features. These are the attributes that drew me to live and work here, and I firmly believe that there is no better place in the world to deliver international private banking.

While we have seen the emergence of other financial centres specialising in global wealth, Switzerland’s history, talent pool, and progressive regulatory environment are unrivalled, and I don't see this changing.

How optimistic are you about a global economic recovery post-COVID-19 in light of rising interest rates and geopolitical issues?

The financial markets are the financial markets. Although we are currently experiencing uncertainty in the macro environment, it is not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism amid the volatility, with inflation being expected to moderate in the major regions by the end of the year, and global growth prospects reinforced by robust labour markets.

How should banks change their strategies to be attractive and on the next generation?

Many banks focus too much on the patriarch when interacting with wealthy families. However, this approach is incompatible with the values of 2022. In my opinion, banks that perform well in the coming years, and decades, will be those that engage with every generation. Outreach is key.

During the early days of COVID-19, I witnessed several disagreements between the generations of families that I work with. While older generations focused on cash, the next generation sought more exposure to markets, mainly equities and private equity. The dialogue is critical and will not disappear in the coming years, it’ll only grow. The good thing is that we play an active role in the discussion.

What is your view on the role of sustainability in the global economy?

The demand for sustainable investing is increasing at a phenomenal pace. It is no longer just a nice to have, but also a sound economic approach. I’m always impressed by the way in which sustainability drives innovation as I see so many exciting new technologies helping to significantly improve the outcomes of green initiatives. Like so many people, I am also aware that we are experiencing a moment of global change. Making the right choices now will have a positive impact on the future generations.

What has been your initial experience of moving to Switzerland, and how have you and your family found the transition?

I clearly remember arriving at Geneva airport on the Easter weekend of 2021. When we left Dubai, the country had mainly returned to normal following COVID-19 and was no longer in lockdown, so it came as a surprise to arrive in Switzerland where the restrictions were still being enforced with the vaccine programme just commencing.

Before I arrived, I had been excited about the prospect of moving to Switzerland in April, as I’d heard that the weather would be starting to improve at that time of year. However, the temperatures were in the minus figures and May was one of the worst months on record for rainfall. I’m pleased to say that the weather in 2022 has been much better.

Overall, I have settled into the role well and my family is adjusting to our new life. My daughter, Anya Amal, attends kindergarten and my wife, Natasha, who is a practicing dentist and owner operator of a clinic in the UK, has received her licence to practice in Switzerland. Having said that, her return to work will be slightly delayed by the exciting news that we are expecting our second child in August, all being well.

And finally, which parts of Switzerland would you most like to visit over the next few months? 

Aside from a few trips to and from Zurich, I haven’t done a lot of travelling beyond the infamous Rive Gauche since I arrived. However, there is so much to see in this stunning country and I look forward to spending time experiencing everything Switzerland has to offer.

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