The science of listening

In 2018, we developed a fully sustainable investing cross-asset mandate portfolio for private clients. Investment solutions aligned with this asset allocation attracted USD 2.8 billion of investments. What's behind that success? The ability to listen closely to what our clients are telling us and to collaborate across the firm to deliver what they want.

To operate globally, financial institutions need to know about important developments in the world today. And they need to act, strategically and effectively. But it's just as important for us to take the time to stop and listen. Whether it's a client telling us about their lending needs, our colleagues offering market insights or companies speaking about the challenges of sustainability, to succeed in financial services you have to know when to listen.

The Investment Platforms and Solutions (IPS) unit within UBS Global Wealth Management (GWM) is made up of roughly 2,500 people. Wherever our firm operates across the globe, you'll find an IPS team supporting our client-facing units. IPS serves as the link between those who work directly with clients to understand their unique needs and our Chief Investment Office (CIO), where colleagues identify investment opportunities and monitor markets. A critical part of IPS's job is listening and understanding.

Christian Wiesendanger is the head of IPS. Christian has been working in finance for over 20 years. But he's also a physicist. And that's lucky, because if there's anyone that realizes the value of gathering data through observation, it's a scientist.

It's rare to see so many smart people in one team, and I'm amazed by the intellectual capacity of this firm.

You can create a great product, but if it's not what your clients want, you're not using your resources effectively.

"It's rare to see so many smart people in one team, and I'm amazed by the intellectual capacity of this firm," says Christian. But all that expertise also brings with it what Christian calls the engineer's curse – "You can create a great product, but if it's not what your clients want, you're not using your resources effectively."

As the largest truly global wealth manager, we at UBS are in the privileged position of being able to bring together some of the best minds in the industry to create solutions our clients want. IPS oversees the offering for our GWM clients, including our flagship investment mandates and investment content, as well as the creation of great trading ideas, banking and wealth planning solutions. Employing its globally-leading investment capabilities, it creates and sources solutions based on the needs of our clients and in line with the financial market insights provided by the CIO.

Last year, we continued to broaden our shelf of sustainable investment solutions, in line with the growing demand that we see among our clients. Sustainability is (for obvious and necessary reasons) at the top of everyone's mind these days. That's why, at the beginning of 2018, GWM launched our 100% fully sustainable investment mandate. This was only possible because Christian's team listens actively. They match the needs and expectations of clients to products that we already have, or identify where gaps exist and develop effective ways to fill them.

Collaboration was crucial to Global Wealth Management's achievements within the sustainable investing program during 2018. "Raising assets on this scale requires a lot of people to work in unison," said Christian. "CIO designs the strategic asset allocations and sustainable methodology. Client advisors reach out to clients and find out what their concerns are. And within IPS, our product specialists offer mandate expertise while our analysts perform the due diligence on the underlying investments."


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