Citywealth award winner Cameron Walker explains to Emily Moore the importance of nurturing younger staff to show ambition and to understand the client-focused culture of Nedbank
WHEN Cameron Walker boarded the plane for a holiday in Jersey, he had no expectation that, 30 years later, he would be calling the Island home.
‘I came to visit my sister, who lived in Jersey, and, while I was here, I applied for a job in the finance industry,’ recalled the now head of private banking, Jersey, at Nedbank Private Wealth.
A month later, Cameron was back to take up not just his new job but also a position in the United Banks Rugby Club.
‘Coming to Jersey was a fabulous move for me,’ he reflected. ‘Not only have I enjoyed my career in the banking sector but, by getting involved in sport, I met a tremendous group of people of all ages and from all backgrounds. It was a tremendous introduction to Island life and, 30 years on, I am still very well connected with a number of those people.’
While an injury may have brought an end to his days on the pitch, Cameron’sprofessional career has continued to go from strength to strength, something which he attributes largely to the many ‘incredible people’ who nurtured him along the way.
‘The great thing about having such a strong finance industry in the Island is that we have experienced practitioners in almost every area and they are developing and nurturing the next generation,’ he said.
‘I was first introduced to private banking during my time at Lloyds Bank, where I had some incredible mentors who encouraged me to learn more about investments and wealth management. Really, it was thanks to their support that my eyes were opened to the opportunities in the private banking sector.’
Thus inspired to pursue a career in that discipline, Cameron joined Nedbank Private Wealth 20 years ago, initially as a private banker.
‘Again, I was lucky to work alongside some fabulous people,’ he said. ‘We were a young but very energetic team, always highly motivated to do the best for our clients.’
Given the credit he gives the individuals who shaped his career, it is unsurprising that now that he is in a leadership role, he places a strong emphasis on supporting his team members’ professional development.
‘I feel really privileged to be in a position where I can now help people with their career decisions and help them to move in the right direction,’ he said. ‘Nedbank has a strong emphasis on learning and development – something which is also demonstrated through our sponsorship of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments – and we have a dedicated team to create bespoke pathways for each member of staff. It is important to acknowledge that not everyone will follow the same route that I have and we need to nurture the talents and skills to enable each person to progress their preferred career path.’
With younger and newer team members working alongside some of the firm’s more experienced personnel, Cameron says that the bank is already ‘seeing the benefits of this mentoring approach’.
‘Those younger, newer team members have already improved and developed so much, and are demonstrating tremendous ambition to grow further,’ he said. ‘They are recognising that there is a lot to learn but they are also discovering how diverse working in finance can be and how many opportunities there are, not just in terms of gaining qualifications but also when it comes to interacting with, and building a network of, other industry professionals.’
And it is not just individual team members, says Cameron, who are showing ambition.
‘There is a lot of ambition to grow the business,’ he said. ‘The Jersey office currently has 20 members of staff, with the numbers having dropped since we sold our trust company last year. However, the business has a real commitment to grow our footprint in the Island and expand the team to ensure not just Nedbank’s longevity but also to reassure our clients of our long-term commitment to help them develop their wealth plans.’
Indeed, while acknowledging that wealth management is ‘continually evolving’, Cameron says that client relationships will always remain at the heart of Nedbank’s approach.
‘We have a really strong culture of doing the best for our clients,’ he said. ‘In fact, our business is all about providing exceptional experiences for our clients and giving them the advice that helps them to achieve their long-term goals. Because of that, it is really important that when we bring new people into the business, they live and breathe the same principles that have been at the heart of Nedbank for many years.’
And it appears that this approach is paying off, with Cameron having been crowned Private Banker of the Year, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, at this year’s Citywealth International Financial Centre Awards.
‘That was a great surprise and a tremendous honour,’ he said. ‘The way I see it is that I’ve just been managing relationships with my clients to help them achieve the best outcomes in line with their goals. Everything that I do, and that the business does, revolves around giving clients the best experience. By encouraging the right behaviours within the business, that client result is a natural outcome and, if we do the best thing for our clients, they will reward us with their loyalty. It’s as simple as that.’
Simple that may sound but, as Cameron admits, global events ensure that nothing is ever quite that straightforward.
‘Every day is certainly different,’ he smiled, ‘but that can be a positive thing. Whatever is happening globally – from the Covid pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis – the key for us is understanding how our clients are feeling and how their wealth is being impacted by the situation. As wealth managers, our role is to understand their concerns and reassure them, while ensuring that – while there may be short-term impacts to their portfolios – their long-term goals are not adversely affected.’
Part of the South-African-based Nedbank Group, Nedbank Private Wealth has offices in Jersey, the Isle of Man, the UK and Dubai, a spread of locations which Cameron says brings great advantages.
‘We get the benefit of all those jurisdictions contributing to our investment principles and creating our portfolios so that we are consistent in our approach but the decisions we make for our clients are made by our relationship managers, who best understand each client’s needs and goals,’ he said.
One goal which is increasingly important to both Nedbank and many of its clients is sustainability.
‘This is one of the key areas in which private banking is evolving and Nedbank has recently launched its sustainable investment strategy to support our staff and enable our clients to invest their wealth in a way which matches their principles,’ Cameron explained. ‘As part of our commitment to sustainability, the group has also undertaken an audit of its carbon footprint and is supporting a tree-planting initiative to offset its emissions.’
But sustainability is not the only area driving innovation and change within the industry, says Cameron.
‘Regulation is another constantly evolving area,’ he said, ‘and it is our responsibility, as gatekeepers within the wealth management industry, to work alongside the regulator to maintain the high standards for which Jersey is renowned. The Island shines bright as a robust finance centre and other jurisdictions are trying to catch us up all the time.
‘While Jersey has always done a great job in evolving, it is important that we continue to do so, developing talent to make sure that we can carry on attracting business as we have always done.
‘In the business of private wealth management, there will always be wealth to be managed. The change is where that wealth is coming from, with young entrepreneurs generating money from industries which didn’t exist when I first joined this business.
‘The challenge for wealth managers is to understand those changes in the world and changes in the way wealth is being generated so that we can support those entrepreneurs in the future.’
And with much of this ‘new wealth’ coming from technology, Cameron says this is another key area for businesses to embrace.
‘Technology is another significant challenge facing the industry but one with which we need to keep up,’ he reflected. ‘While certain regulatory changes may be necessary, it is vital that businesses adopt technology to be able to onboard clients digitally and that we invest in systems to ensure that we can continue to meet the demands of our clients.
‘With a lot of entrepreneurs generating wealth from technology, if we do not adapt, then those individuals will not recognise themselves in the businesses in which they are looking to invest their wealth. We have to keep pace with this change and stay ahead of the competition to ensure that Jersey remains an attractive and front-running jurisdiction.’