The event is Credit Suisse's second collaboration with New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising to educate its clients in the best practices in philanthropy and give them the opportunity to interact with their peers.
The two-day Credit Suisse Philanthropy Campus, as it is called, rounds up high profile experts on all aspects of charitable giving. Some of the speakers include Naomi Levine, founder and executive director of NYU's Heyman Center, who has helped raise more than $1 billion for the university; Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO and founder of Acumen Fund, which has invested more than $75 million in companies providing affordable energy, health care, housing and water in Africa and Asia; and Mark Shriver, leader of U.S. programs for Save the Children and son of Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver and Special Olympics creator Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
At the opening dinner to kick off the event the night before, DeChellis says one client asked him, "'Why do you put so much effort into doing this?'" He said: "I explained to her that we see this as our role and our job."
The event is just one example of how Credit Suisse is anticipating the needs of their clients, according to DeChellis, whether it be the education of their children, helping them make new business connections or delving into their interests like antique cars.
"A client wants to know that you get them, that you understand who they are, can anticipate things before that need even pops into their mind, and you can anticipate for them challenges they will likely face, opportunities they should be thinking about," DeChellis says. "Because we're geniuses? No. It's because we're very experienced in dealing with people and families like theirs."
Credit Suisse's experience in dealing with wealthy families dates back nearly 156 years. The firm's private banking in the Americas has seen some significant changes since DeChellis took the helm in 2006. It was then that the firm first created the Americas region that stretches from Argentina to Canada. Credit Suisse then set out to carve a defined wealth management business that evolved toward a private bank model from the investment bank. And then luck kicked in. The financial crisis that hit many financial firms hard brought a host of new talent looking to join Credit Suisse's U.S. private banking ranks. DeChellis estimates that the firm hired 150 people in 2008 alone.
For wealth management firms with thousands of advisors, that might not sound like a significant number. But for Credit Suisse, which now has approximately 430 U.S. advisors, who the firm calls relationship managers, those hires have helped push the business to double its size in assets in the U.S. That figure has grown to approximately $99.23 billion, up from about $45 billion in 2006. The Americas business, including Latin America and Canada, now stands at $170 billion in assets, up from $80 billion in 2006.
The firm plans to continue that growth, setting its sights on doubling the assets under management of the U.S. private banking business in the next six years, and expanding its relationship manager force to between 550 and 700.
That all comes as DeChellis strives for the firm's private banking Americas business to be seen in two ways: the best place for the best wealth managers to work and the most user-friendly for its clients and advisors.
"Because of our size, we manage $1 trillion in assets, it's tens of thousands of clients, not tens of millions of clients," DeChellis says in an interview from his office in midtown Manhattan. "It allows us to be very nimble in serving clients so that we are the best at making our firm accessible."
The floor of Credit Suisse's Manhattan office is a testament to the rapid growth it has seen in the U.S. in recent years. Spread over two and a half acres, the space is awaiting a renovation to match the redesign of all the other U.S. private banking offices that have undergone a face lift to give the firm a more wealth management—not brokerage—presence. The delay for the New York office is because of its size, says DeChellis, who estimates that it is one of the largest offices in Manhattan by revenue.
Part of that culture that Credit Suisse is striving for is evident with the relationship manager title the firm favors for its advisors. That title is meant to indicate the various departments—asset management, investment bank and other specialists—that an advisor can connect their clients with, and how they can serve as the one entry point to the entire firm, DeChellis says.