When the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the Belle Epoque jewel of Monaco and its royal family, reopens next month, baccarat will be dealt with hand sanitizer.
Down the hill, the famous Cote d’Azur harbor lies quiet. Bars and restaurants are closed. In this Mediterranean playground of millionaires and billionaires, the ultra-wealthy -- and those who discreetly mind their fortunes -- have been self-isolating, too.

The coronavirus pandemic has intruded even here, in the big-money world of super yachts and the private bankers who tend to their owners. This weekend’s scheduled Formula One race, during which banks outdo one another to entertain clients, has been canceled. Art fairs in Switzerland and Hong Kong are on ice, polo and classic car events have been postponed in the U.S., and gatherings in Michelin-starred restaurants from London to Singapore have disappeared from the calendar. Visits with even the most VIP clients -- VVIP in the trade -- are on hold.

Like the rest of the world, Monaco wants its old life back. So, too, do the bankers who usually flock here every May to charm and entertain their high-end clients with Dom Perignon and food from celebrity chefs. But the pandemic is forcing many to rethink how ultra-wealth management gets done. What will this high-touch, bespoke business look like from behind an N-95 mask?

“We’ve had to compensate for that intimacy and that intensity of contact that our industry requires,” said Salman Mahdi, global vice chairman of Deutsche Bank AG’s wealth-management division.

‘Less Formal’
The German bank has instead been working on a fortnightly online speaker series with medical experts talking about the coronavirus. Not only are the events efficient in getting so many clients together in a short period, they’re also cheap.

Other banks are also seeking to recreate engagement online. Credit Suisse Group AG has postponed until December its flagship client event -- known as the Salon -- that’s hosted by executive board members. Starting in June, it plans to invite Nobel Prize winners and business leaders to speak at monthly webinars.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has gotten involved in a virtual charity event since the crisis began, as well as hosting online seminars including ones featuring sport stars like the NBA’s Kevin Love and tennis player Sloane Stephens, said Tucker York, the bank’s global head of wealth management. It even has some unexpected benefits.

“We’re all just a little less formal,” he said. “It’s like a relationship accelerator.”

Julius Baer Group Ltd. said it is keeping clients informed through webcasts and calls with its research and investment teams, while UBS Group AG declined to comment on its approach.

The cancellation of events from exclusive meet-ups in Switzerland for next-generation heirs to sports outings may reveal just how useful they were in bringing in new business. After a decade-long bull run in stocks, the market slump sparked by pandemic has delivered a wake-up call to private bankers as the global pool of assets threatens to shrink.

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