In conversation with Alex Kobler

“Our response to the challenges our clients face is to offer a unique new investment process that builds on and extends our impressive existing capabilities.”

“Client performance is in our DNA.”

Alex Kobler’s day begins with one prevailing thought: Client performance - how can UBS help clients profit from investment opportunities and understand potential risks amid the rapid churn of global financial markets? At the heart of the solution is a comprehensive investment advisory process that pairs the depth and breadth of UBS’s global expertise with local insights and a best-in-class product platform.

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Good advice is the lifeblood of excellent wealth management, and the best advice does not just draw on one font of wisdom, but rather a deep and diverse range of insights and experiences. For Alex Kobler, UBS’s Head of Investment Products & Services (IPS) in Asia Pacific, creating an unparalleled wealth management service in the region is about seamlessly integrating the bank’s vast global resources and on-the-ground insights of local market experts.

Alex Kobler
Head of Investment Products & Services, Asia Pacific

Making it happen

Delivering superior quality advice and solutions with the speed and effectiveness previously only available to large institutions, is the ultimate goal of UBS Wealth Management.

This UBS client promise is underpinned by the extensive network of experts as well as the bank’s thorough investment process. More than 900 economists, analysts and strategists from all UBS business divisions around the world contribute their global and local knowledge to formulate a disciplined research-based approach, known as the ‘UBS House View.’

“With this fast, systematic and structured investment process at our fingertips, my key task is to make sure we identify the best-in-class products and make them readily available for our client advisors to recommend sound investment opportunities, tailored to the client’s individual portfolios,” Mr Kobler says.

“If you’re talking substance, it’s very much about market intelligence, it’s about product selection, it’s about portfolio knowledge and putting everything together... it’s at this intersection that IPS is at its best,” he says.

“Whether you want to take an active lead or free up your time by delegating day-to-day investment decisions, UBS offers a broad advisory platform from Investment Management, Advisory Services and Wealth Planning, all geared around our clients’ individual needs and financial goals,” explains Mr Kobler.

A new world of investment opportunities

By combining UBS’s unique investment process with years of experience in portfolio management, UBS will launch a new advisory service in early 2014, named ‘UBS Advice Asia,’ which enables client advisors to manage their client’s portfolio with the support of an expert system providing regular tailored advice. It ensures high portfolio quality combined with continuous monitoring of all positions. Importantly, this advice model is purely about maximizing client performance, not transaction turnover. To Mr Kobler, the ‘UBS Advice Asia’ platform and the full alignment of client and advisor objectives are the future of the wealth management industry.

“UBS Advice Asia is based on a flat-fee agreement. It’s not based on transactions but on the assets that the client holds with us,” he says. “Whenever the client advisor calls up with an idea, it’s not about creating incremental revenue through transactions, it’s about incremental performance for the client.”

Growth in Asia

In Asia Pacific, Mr Kobler sees a growing need for high net worth advisory services especially as clients look to diversify their investments away from their home markets and seek institutional expertise on how to best execute this change in their portfolio.

While Asia Pacific markets have performed well historically, the volatility seen in the last years has given regional investors cause to consider investments from a much broader suite of options.

“Having a conscious dialogue with the clients around the overall asset allocation and the degree of home bias can be decisive for the long-term success of the investment strategy,” he says.

Also important is to rebalance the portfolio periodically and adhere to a structured investment approach.

“It takes discipline to take profit in a position that has achieved its target or to stop loss if the investment thesis hasn’t materialized. What we see particularly on the advisory side is that clients tend to hold on to their position for too long,” Mr Kobler says.

“There are a lot of behavioral biases and emotions in the way we all make financial decisions, which if you want to grow your long-term wealth and achieve your financial goals, isn’t the best advice.”

The IPS offering includes a range of approaches that keep the emotional variables out of investments, notably discretionary and advisory services that bring objective expertise into the decision-making process.

Maximizing opportunities, managing risks

The Asia Pacific IPS business is spearheaded by 350 specialists in 6 countries and covers a wide range of asset classes, products and services. The complexity of the financial markets in the Asia Pacific context is reflected in the more than 50,000 instruments held by UBS clients in the region. Just as complex is the diversity of the region’s local regulations, cultures, languages and client investment goals.

“Our key concern is to make sure we advise clients in the right markets and with the right products to achieve the opportunities that are out there and manage the risks as well,” Mr Kobler says.

Also essential is the vast investment in technology and innovation that allows UBS advisors to quickly see how their client portfolios are performing in the context of the bank’s own intelligence and insights.

The launch of the ‘UBS Advice Asia’ platform in Asia Pacific is about enhancing the advisory experience in the region and harnessing the power of the bank’s global research and investment capabilities.

“We have an unrivaled platform and what we are striving for is excellence in advice.”

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Watch an interview with Alex Kobler