Wealth Blog

UBS disclaimer reaches new heights of nuttiness

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 10:26am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 5:36pm

The super rich keep getting richer, in a nutshell. Asia will produce more ultra high net worth individuals than both the United States and Europe in the next five years. Asia has 44,505 UHNW individuals worth US$6.5 trillion (HK$50.4 trillion), up 5.4 per cent from last year.

Most are self-made: 65 per cent, 88 per cent are men and they are worth, on average, US$139 (HK$1,078) each million, up US$1.8 million (HK$13.9 million) from last year.

That’s according to Swiss Bank UBS and Wealth X, which studies such things. The rich of North America and Europe lead the charge, as Asia rebounds, while surprisingly, Latin America Slips.

The press release announcing this new Inaugural Wealth-X and UBS World Ultra Wealth Report comes with a bizarre disclaimer. I’ve no idea how long Wealth X has been in bed with UBS , but it’s a first to receive a press release which states that although it’s a UBS document, “the information and opinions expressed were obtained from sources believed to be reliable and in good faith, neither representation nor warranty, express or implied, is made as to its accuracy or completeness.” Let me get this right, they are sending a notice to journalists saying their own information is obtained from possibly dodgy sources and they don’t stand by it?

It continues. “This press release… should not be deemed as the giving of investment advice. It has no regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation or needs of any recipient. All information and opinions indicated are subject to change without notice.” Now they may come from cloud cuckoo-clock land – though they claim that’s really Austria - but these Swiss chaps must be spending too much time yodelling if they think hacks get investment advice from press releases. Or that they have any spare cash to invest.    

“You should obtain relevant and specific professional advice before making any decision.” About whether to use their press release?

Do not reproduce press release

And then, best of all, it says we can’t even use it.  “This press release must not be copied, reproduced, distributed or passed (in whole or in part) by the recipient to any other person at any time without prior written consent of UBS.” But they just sent it to me! 

On the basis of this, I’m not sure what to read in or out of the apparently potentially unreliable information. If I was Wealth X I’d be reconsidering our partnership. So a quick call to Rachel Lin at UBS in Singapore. Is this a joke? She laughs. No. “Ignore all that,” she laughs. “Just run with it.” But it says it’s potentially unreliable and I cannot reproduce it. “Oh don’t worry about that, it’s just the disclaimer,” she says.        

Fine, in which case I can tell you there are now 199,235 individuals with a combined fortune of nearly US$28 trillion (HK$217.1 trillion), up by more than six per cent in population size from last year, greater than the GDP of India. 

UHNW individuals have total net assets of US$30 million (HK$232.6 million) and above, it says. China and Brazil, the fourth and seventh wealthiest UHNW nations, saw their super-rich checked by economic slowdowns, it continues. So the rich got richer slower in China.

At current growth rates, Asia’s ultra wealthy population and wealth will leapfrog Europe in 2021 and 2017 respectively. 

Plug disguised as press release

"In Asia, the UHNW segment is dominated by entrepreneurs in their first or second generation who are still heavily involved in their family businesses. The services they require go beyond personal investment advice, to include family succession matters and growing the business. At the top end of the segment, you have the family offices and institutional-like client groups which require complex, bespoke solutions and fast execution. UBS's ability to offer world-class and worldwide capabilities across wealth management, investment bank and global asset management, places us at a distinctive advantage in servicing these clients," Thanks Joseph Poon, Head of Ultra High Net Worth, Southeast Asia, UBS Wealth Management. Nice plug. But read your own disclaimer. After all: “neither representation nor warranty, express or implied, is made as to its accuracy.”