In conversation with Jürg Zeltner

"We love the dynamism and enthusiasm of this region"

UBS Wealth Management CEO Jürg Zeltner has a vision; to set a new benchmark for the wealth management industry. UBS’s recently revamped investment management process combines expert financial know-how and world-class investment capabilities with innovative technology to offer wealthy clients services and products which genuinely add value. Here UBS Perspectives talks to Mr. Zeltner about how Asian clients in particular stand to benefit a great deal from his strategy, and why he finds UBS a stimulating and challenging place to work.

Mr. Zeltner, as CEO of UBS Wealth Management you are, so to speak,its top-ranking client advisor. What qualities do you think make an ideal client advisor?

Jürg Zeltner: At UBS we believe that more than anything else, client advisors have to be driven by passion: passion for the markets and passion for their clients. Their first thought on getting up in the morning and seeing the latest news from the financial world needs to be, “What implications does this have for my clients and their assets?”

What technical skills are needed?

Good client advisors have a deep understanding of each individual client and a clear picture of their personal investment goals as well as their tolerance and capacity for risk. They also have to be good networkers and team players, mobilizing all their contacts within the bank to ensure that their clients have access to all the world-class capabilities which a global and diversified organization like UBS has to offer. And it is essential for them to be well-trained and qualified. UBS is setting new standards in this regard, by introducing an industry-accredited certification for our wealth management advisors.

What other capabilities are needed to add real value for wealthy clients in today’s market environment?

Given the volatility which most financial markets are now experiencing, it’s vital for client advisors to identify and recommend to their clients good investment opportunities as quickly as possible. To support them in doing this, over the last couple of years we have strengthened our investment process and made it faster, more systematic and more structured. A total of nine hundred economists, analysts and investment experts from all UBS business divisions around the world contribute their global and local knowledge to our Investment House View. This data is provided quickly and efficiently to our client advisors, enabling them to contact their clients rapidly with sound investment advice that matches their individual preferences.

What solutions does UBS offer?

Clients are free to choose the way they want to work with us. Those with little time available to follow the markets may want to opt for one of our investment mandates, which delegate the day-to-day management of their portfolios to our specialists, in line with the UBS Investment House View. More self-directed investors are likely to favor an advisory mandate, which allows them full control of their portfolio combined with investment advice from our experts. Whichever option they choose, we work with each client to develop a precise profile of their needs, a thorough understanding of their personal financial objectives, their risk tolerance and their preferences, across their entire financial lifecycle. Based on that we develop an investment strategy appropriate specifically for them, enabling us to protect and grow their wealth.

Other asset managers have their own investment process and house view. What makes UBS’s so different?

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry in recent years about providing this caliber of service. The big difference is that we have gone beyond talking and actually implemented it. Our global operations mean that market analysis is provided by our own experts on the ground around the world, not just based on studies done from a distance. And to prevent us from becoming too “set in our ways” or blinkered in our views, we have leading external specialists critically scrutinize our Investment House View on a regular basis. We are not afraid to have our views challenged. On the contrary, we welcome expert input from outside our own organization. It sharpens and enriches our content, and ultimately benefits our clients.

What are your plans in Asia?

We believe that substantial growth will take place in APAC. We have a firm and long-term commitment to Asia, which testifies to our strong belief in the considerable potential of this market. Recent reports indicate that the Asia Pacific region already accounts for one-third of overall global wealth. UBS was the first Swiss bank to establish a permanent presence in Asia’s growth markets. In fact, we have had a branch in Hong Kong for almost 50 of the 150 years since UBS was founded. Today we have over 1,000 client advisors across APAC and maintain Hong Kong and Singapore as major wealth management hubs. UBS already has a leading investment banking operation in China, and we are making long-term investments in building our local presence and capacity there. We have a strong presence in Japan and Taiwan which we also want to expand over time. We are established in APAC. We love the dynamism and enthusiasm of this region. We plan to do more business here, and we’re here to stay.

Can you elaborate on UBS Wealth Management’s global strategy for the rest of the world? Where does your geographical focus lie?

We have made clear choices about the regions we want to serve and where we see the greatest potential to grow our business. In Europe we are focused on five core markets: Germany, UK, Italy, Spain and France, and we maintain a strong presence in our home market of Switzerland. We also believe that the emerging markets hold great potential and have a business area dedicated entirely to serving them. In this area our particular focus is on Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

How do clients benefit from the global presence of UBS?

In Asia, a particularly large proportion of our clients are entrepreneurs who own their own companies. Our worldwide network of services is ideal for serving them, as their wealth is tied to their businesses and they require not only personal investment advice but also the investment banking and asset management services which our other divisions specialize in. This ability to draw on UBS’s entire pool of global resources has helped us to build very strong and long-term relationships with Asian clients. By expanding our presence in places like Asia and Latin America, we are also gaining access to new growth opportunities so we can keep investors’ return prospects intact despite the market volatility. In addition to a global product offering we also provide trouble-free processing of client orders by being present in all the key financial markets and holding seats on about 80 exchanges.

What does the future look like at UBS Wealth Management?

We continuously develop our business to meet the evolving needs of our clients and are working on our advisory process to ensure that we can build an even more comprehensive and precise investor profile for each individual client. Another major focus of ours is on harnessing technology and digitalization as a way of further enhancing the accessibility of our products and services and the speed of our delivery to clients. Fundamentally, what our clients want today is transparency, investment ideas and performance. Over the past few years, we have linked our excellent content, our know-how, our skilled investment specialists and our highly trained client advisors into a unique value chain that enables us to deliver superior investment advice and solutions for our clients’ wealth. UBS is well positioned for the future with a clear focus on our client’s wealth management at the core.

You have been with UBS for a long time. Is there something that makes this bank a special place to work?

Yes there is, and I’m proud to have spent my entire career here. Having grown up in a small town in Switzerland, I first got to know UBS as a bank with Swiss roots, firmly embedded in the local community. Since then it has grown into a global organization serving a truly international and very discerning clientele, and I feel that I have grown with it. This bank employs some of the best and smartest people in the industry. It’s been a terrific experience to work with and learn from colleagues and leaders who have guided and challenged me, and continue to do so. UBS has given me the opportunity and the space to develop myself professionally and personally. I feel both privileged and excited to be leading its wealth management operations, particularly at a time of new challenges and opportunities in the industry.

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