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Wealth management giant UBS seeks multiskilled banking and finance gurus for new Kowloon office

Published on Saturday, 30 Jan 2016
Amy Lo, country head of UBS Hong Kong and head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China. Photo: Sky Lip

Amy Lo doesn’t need to pore over the finer details of a spreadsheet to find evidence of the rapid growth of the overall wealth management market in Asia. The proof is right outside her office door.

“In Hong Kong we now have over 1,000 staff in our wealth management unit and roughly the same number in Singapore,” says Lo, who is country head of UBS Hong Kong and head of UBS Wealth Management Greater China. “When I first joined [UBS Hong Kong] back in 1995, we had only 50 or 60 in total. This expansion has come through both organic growth and as a result of mergers and acquisitions.”

UBS Wealth Management has 257 billion Swiss francs (HK$1.9 trillion) of assets under management in Asia-Pacific as of Q3 2015 and Lo believes the prospects for the industry in this part of the world will continue to be bright. She bases her optimism on two factors, apart from ongoing economic development.

“First, the government is promoting Hong Kong as a regional and global financial hub, and that will help Hong Kong remain a centre for the wealth management industry,” she says, adding that Hong Kong has the rule of law, a robust regulatory framework, and companies working in the sector that are offering some very sophisticated products.

“Second, a generational transfer of assets is now happening in the region. In Europe you have wealthy families in their eighth or ninth generation whereas, in this part of the world, the wealthiest families are sometimes only in their first or second generations. This creates a great demand for wealth management advice,” she says.

The opening in April this year of UBS Hong Kong’s first office outside Central, located in Tsim Sha Tsui, underlines this optimism.

“A visibility study we conducted showed that not many entrepreneurs in Kowloon either knew about UBS or currently use wealth management services. So we believe there’s a lot of potential for growth there.”

Lo says that, currently, 70 per cent of UBS Wealth Management clients are entrepreneurs, who typically look to their wealth managers for help with three aspects of their financial life.

“People usually think about investments when they think about wealth management. We take the view that we first need to discuss with clients what their objectives in life are. To this end, we spend a lot of time with our clients discussing the needs and aspirations of their families, especially in areas such as philanthropy and succession planning. How we invest their wealth is often decided by these more personal aims. It is also the case that, with entrepreneurs, we need to factor in that much of their focus is on their business. Our clients will often need our help in divesting their business interests and creating liquidity, because the bulk of their assets are in the company, and they also look for assistance in taking their business to the next level, through mergers or acquisitions.”

The planned opening of the new office is spurring UBS to expand its workforce at an even greater rate. Last year it recruited 100 relationship managers, some of whom were hired for the new Kowloon office. By the end of 2016, Lo hopes to have 50 to 60 relationship managers based in Kowloon.

Despite these recruitment targets, Lo says UBS will continue to maintain a high standard when assessing applicants.

“We are looking for bankers who already have a strong network of entrepreneurs in the region. Typically, we’re looking at five years experience in servicing high-net-worth individuals. They should also have trilingual language capabilities in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.”

Lo admits, though, that finding sufficient talented individuals is a challenge. “So we started our wealth management associate programme to groom our own relationship managers. Typically we look at around three to five years’ work experience in the finance industry. This experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in wealth management, as we will train them to become a certified private wealth professional.”

Given her 30 years of experience in the industry, Lo is in an ideal position to give advice to anyone considering a career in wealth management.

“First, you have to have a passion for banking and wealth management. Second, as this is a people business, interpersonal and communication skills are very important. It is essential to remember that a vital element of communication is listening – we do all tend to talk too much.

“Finally, if you want to be a successful wealth manager, or private banker, you have to gain the trust of your clients. Don’t just try and pitch to them – your job is not to sell products but to be a trusted adviser.”

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as A picture of wealth.

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