In conversation with William Kennedy

“We’re also an early adopter of the new wealth management world, which puts us in a strong position.”

Head, Investment Products & Services

Starting his career as a graduate trainee with UBS, William Kennedy swiftly rose through the ranks to become the Head of Investment Products & Services, UBS Wealth Management globally. We spoke to William, who has a passion for breeding racehorses on his family’s farm, to learn more about key investment trends in the region and how innovation is changing the way that UBS serves clients across Asia Pacific.


William Kennedy
Head, Investment Products & Services
UBS Wealth Management & Swiss Bank Group Managing Director

What is your role in the context of how UBS delivers superior investment advice and solutions to clients?

William Kennedy: It’s the role of the team, rather than my role specifically, to ensure that we’re delivering on our promise to clients. We take direction from the Chief Investment Office (CIO) House View to create and populate a best-in-class product shelf. Whether it is funds, single securities or structured products, we have to go out and find the best solution, navigating the internaland external universe of product and ensuring that we bring exactly the right ones to clients.

What do you see are the main similarities and differences in the UBS offering in Asia compared to the rest of the world?

Within the different client segments,whether it’s in Switzerland or Germany, Hong Kong or Singapore, all of our clients have biases. We need to understand the client and their bias when we create solutions, taking that client’s position as our first stage. Are things different in Asia Pacific? Yes, because it’s a faster growing region. The generation of wealth is increasingly with a younger segment of the population. The emergence of China and other markets has generated a very different feel, compared to, say, Europe, which is not moving at the same GDP. We have to think about who the clients are. What support do they need? Do they like to delegate their asset management or be more in charge? How much leverage do they use across different instruments that they play? We try to mirror the offering back to exactly what clients require.

What makes UBS products and services different?

Firstly, the CIO House View is unique - that’s one big part of the value chain. Secondly, our ability to access products at a very high level, both internally and externally. Then there’s the quality of the people that we have working on solutions. When I interview people from other places, I struggle to find others of the same caliber, so I feel that’s a unique value proposition. Our ability to utilize the organization in the interests of our clients is a huge leverage factor that none of our competitors can play. We’re also an early adopter of the new wealth management world, which puts us in a strong position.

Are there any specific new initiatives and innovations that are planned for 2014?

We recently rolled out ‘UBS Advice Asia,’ a huge step forward compared to the competition. This allows us to track all of our client portfolios from the advisory side, every day, and identify any concerns coming through within these portfolios. Each morning, we can take these insights and call clients about deviations in their portfolios and suggest ways to fix them.

What are the most important trends that you see in wealth management and investment globally, but also specifically in Asia Pacific? 

Nowadays, our clients expect us to be on the life-cycle journey with them. We need to understand their needs and help them adjust their portfolios, based on changes in their life cycle. There are expectations about succession, wealth planning and pension plans too. We need to be in tune with improving portfolios - and not just on an ad hoc basis. We must be on top of it, all the time, to keep that long-term objective in place, and constantly check that we are delivering on our client promise.

What are some of the key considerations for UBS client advisors today?

Keeping an eye on shifting demographics is increasingly important, especially when formulating a longer-term view. The way we operate in financial services is also subject to continuing change as we adapt to a new normality. I anticipate further changes to rules and regulations, which will have a bearing on our strategies, the way in which we operate and how we view the world.

You have stayed with UBS throughout your career. What is its enduring appeal?

Quite simply, we spend so much of our lives in the office that, if you don’t have respect for the people that you work with, then you are not going to spend two decades in one organization. I work with a lot of very bright people and I honestly do learn something new every day. Having a kind of family that you grow with, over such a long period, makes this a very attractive and appealing place to work. With this support, you know you can work together to make a difference. UBS is filled with really unique people.

Watch an interview with William Kennedy