Best international private bank in Asia 2021
Last year was a watershed moment for UBS’s private banking operations in Asia Pacific. Invested assets with UBS Global Wealth Management for the region surpassed $500 billion for the first time in the third quarter, and closed 2020 at $560 billion.
Profits before tax grew from $600 million in 2019 to $1.1 billion last year – equal to about 30% of UBS’s wealth management business globally, and 70% of incremental profits.
What was the secret to UBS’s success in the region? The wealth management division, under Asia Pacific co-heads Amy Lo and August Hatecke, got a number of things right despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic.
First was the rapid adoption of digital channels to serve private banking clients, including holding about 200 virtual events last year. UBS’s e-banking platform gained ground among clients: in the fourth quarter, for instance, over 62% of all equity trades were executed via e-trading.
UBS also managed to stay close to its clients, at a time of travel bans across the world. One way it tackled this was by leveraging its in-house proprietary CIO views to provide clients with timely advice, with weekly webinars held for private banking clients since early February 2020.
One of its key recommendations to clients was to stay invested in the market despite the dislocation caused by the pandemic, to diversify their investments and to hone in on sustainable investments. UBS also rolled out a discretionary sustainable investment portfolio for its clients, which bankers at the firm say has performed well.
That approach is starting to pay off in 2021 too. For the first quarter, UBS’s Asia Pacific global wealth management team posted new records, with operating income rising 11% year on year to $881 million, invested assets growing 42% to $576 billion, and net new money more than doubling year on year to $13.7 billion. Profit before tax for the first quarter of 2021 was 19% higher year on year at $468 million.
UBS is preparing for further growth. First there is China, where UBS operates through wholly owned bank UBS (China) Limited, and through a majority owned securities platform, UBS Securities. It plans to double its footprint in China across wealth management, asset management and investment banking in the next three to five years, and is working on a digital joint venture in the country to stay ahead of peers.
In Japan, it has tied up with Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank in a joint venture – the first of its kind in the country – to offer wealth management services to clients. The joint venture, which is 51% owned by the Swiss bank, is expected to be up and running later this year.
UBS says it currently has a relationship with three out of five billionaires in Asia, but it is aiming for a bigger share of wallet from these clients. To that end, the bank rolled out a CEO dialogue series last year to boost its relationships with entrepreneurs and families, and help them connect with each other in the course of such events.
The firm launched My Way in October 2020, offering portfolio management services using a hybrid digital and personal approach. Since its launch, assets under management of My Way exceeded $2.6 billion globally, and reached $570 million in Asia Pacific in early March.
It also caters exceptionally well to clients focused on succession planning and transferring their wealth to the next generation. UBS’s Next Gen programmes in Asia Pacific celebrated their 17th anniversary last year. The bank’s flagship Next Generation Academy programme will be offered virtually from June to October 2021, in partnership with Switzerland’s IMD Business School, well known for its family business-related programmes.
UBS also launched the Young Successors Community last year, providing online thought leadership sessions on topics such as family governance and sustainability.
With such strong credentials, UBS is Asiamoney’s best international private bank in Asia, and the best for wealth transfer and succession planning.