Maximilian Martin, in charge of philanthropy services at Swiss private banking giant UBS, has one of the more unusual jobs among wealth managers. Martin is in charge of helping super-rich clients give away their money to charitable causes and setting up foundations. “If we were just in business of telling clients you should give everything away there may be a disconnect,” Martin admitted at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit in Geneva. But of course, there is money to be made, since UBS ends up managing the bulk of the billions that wealthy individuals and families give away. “If you’re serious about providing value-added services for your clients this is quite attractive,” Martin said. Philanthropy is increasingly becoming an integral part of the services that wealth managers provide as they compete for clients, and a good business too.
What do Swiss ski resorts and private banks have in common? Rich customers. Bank Julius Baer has started to open private banking branches catering to wealthy clients at upscale ski resorts in Switzerland, says Chief Operating officer Boris Collardi.” We noticed that we were not in the most prestigious ski resorts,” Collardi explains, saying that many wealthy clients want to do business while on vacation, instead of having to make a detour to Geneva or Zurich to see a banker. Collardi calls these branches “White Spots”, located in upscale Swiss resorts such as Verbier and Crans Montana, for the super-rich who want to manage their money and have a soft spot for skiing, or may own holiday homes in the Alps. Collardi also said that the bank was increasing its recruiting from hotel schools to find and train private bankers who excel at providing fine service – on or off the slopes.
Richard Fan of UG Investment Advisers described his $900 million hedge fund vehicle as a “niche” product because of its focus on China and Taiwan. Although Asia-focused hedge fund assets have risen six-fold over the past five years, Fan said he was not overly concerned about competition because UG had on-the-ground knowledge and a network of local contacts. “You need to have the local presence…you need to be in a situation where you get the information first.”
High net worth individuals are giving more of a look at socially responsible investments, albeit for small portions of their portfolios, consultants to the private banking industry said at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit.
Socially responsible investing can take many forms, ranging from funds that refrain from investing in munitions makers to environmental funds that hold land and grow timber to religious funds that avoid companies like alcohol distillers.
“It’s a generational change. The Woodstock generation made their wealth, but now they’re saying, ‘what are we going to do with it?,’” said Bertrand Lavayssiere, managing director at consultancy Capgemini.
So far, investors that do make socially responsible investments typically allocate around 5 percent of their portfolio to the area, said Sebastian Dovey, managing partner at Scorpio.
But for individuals deeply committed to socially responsible investing, that can range up to 100 percent, Dovey added.
Citigroup is looking to increase its private banking business in countries including Spain, Italy, and Germany, to name a few.
JPMorgan is doubling the size of its joint venture between its investment banking group and its private banking group in Europe.