UBS unit follows the flow of money

Swiss bank's wealth management division seeks to expand by tapping into the funds pouring into Asia as Europe remains in the doldrums

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 April, 2013, 3:43am

As net money flows into the Asia-Pacific continue, the wealth management unit of Swiss bank UBS is aiming to tap the investment market by growing its business at double the rate of gross domestic product expansion in the region.

Jürg Zeltner, the chief executive of UBS Wealth Management, said he expected the bank's invested assets in the Asia-Pacific to reach 20 per cent or more of its total assets under management in the medium to long term, almost double their level of 12.2 per cent at the end of last year.

Zeltner said that potential growth would come, thanks to a high rate of economic growth in the region and increasing fund flows into Asia.

UBS Wealth Management's total invested assets amounted to 1.6 trillion Swiss francs (HK$13.3 trillion) worldwide last year.

Net new money flowing into UBS Wealth Management from clients in the Asia-Pacific grew 9.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, more than offsetting outflows from the bank's operations in Europe during the same period.

Zeltner said he expected the trend to continue this year because money would keep pouring into Asia from Europe, where the economic outlook remained sluggish.

Asia was at the centre of the group's strategy, said Allen Lo, the country head and chief executive of UBS in Hong Kong, adding that the bank would devote substantial resources to investing in its Asian operations.

It also plans to expand its branch network in the region and the range of products it offers.

UBS Wealth Management currently employed about 1,000 client relationship managers in the Asia-Pacific and was looking to hire more staff, said Zeltner. It has five branches on the mainland, where its full banking licence enables it to take deposits from local customers.

Foreign banks regard mainland clients as one of the main drivers of growth in the industry, and Zeltner said that mainland investors were now much more aware of the need to diversify their portfolios.

"With the global network of UBS, we can help our mainland clients go offshore and find business partners overseas," he added.

Looking ahead, Zeltner said there could be some setbacks for the region's economy despite the effects of quantitative easing measures by Japan and inflation in China.

"The economic cycle is becoming shorter and more pronounced because of globalisation," he said.

And with increased dependence among countries, an economic downturn in one region can spread easily to others.

Zeltner said the proposed new industry body for private banking in Hong Kong, Private Wealth Management Association, would facilitate the city 's healthy competition with Singapore, which is regarded as a regional private banking hub.

Lo said a consistent standard for the industry could also help private bankers better serve their clients.