Paul Feeney is a boy wonder of British banking.

Going to work for National Westminister Bank PLC in his late 20s, the former Cambridge junior professor helped create the bank's life insurance marketing operation and build it into Europe's largest "bancassurance" program.

Now NatWest has another big challenge for the 32-year-old Mr. Feeney - to help turn its private bank, Coutts & Co., into a fixture among the world's affluent.

In three weeks, Mr. Feeney, who has spent the past year building an insurance operation at Natwest branches in New Jersey, starts work in London as marketing director for the private bank's worldwide operations.

A big part of his effort will be to build Coutts' presence in the United States and Latin America.

"I don't think you can call yourself a private bank unless you're in America," Mr. Feeney said. "You can call yourself a two-thirds international private bank, but that doesn't have the same ring to it."

Mr. Feeney knows he's got his work cut out for him. While he was credited for building an insurance business from scratch in the United Kingdom, at least he was operating in a country that was well acquainted with the National Westminster name.

In his new post, he's trying to promote private banking services in markets unfamiliar with Coutts, a 304-year old institution known in its home country as the private bank to the Queen of England.

Coutts wants to reach new private banking clients in North and South America, the Far East, and the Middle East. The three-year-old New York office has 50 private bankers.

People familiar with Mr. Feeney's work in bank insurance marketing don't think he'll have any trouble making the jump despite a lack of prior experience in private banking.

"That would be an area in which he would fit quite nicely because it's not just a product," said Michael White, a Radnor, Pa.-based bank insurance consultant.

Mr. White explained that Mr. Feeney's talent in marketing insurance was that he presented it as part of overall financial services picture instead of individual policies.

He added that Mr. Feeney's insurance marketing methods were "unusual because he truly had a philosophy" behind them.

Mr. Feeney himself acknowledges he lacks "a blue-blood background in private banking."

But he is well-versed enough to know the competition, citing Citicorp, Union Bank of Switzerland, Credit Suisse, and Bank Julius Baer as forces to contend with.

Coutts' strategy to raise its profile around the world, involves hiring experienced private bankers and building rapport with accountants and attorneys. Mr. Feeney said the current emphasis is on countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

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