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UBS ups the ante to drive Asia wealth management business

UBS will bolster its wealth management ranks in Asia through a combination of hiring externally and taking on the graduates of its newly-launched Wealth Management Master programme in an attempt to respond to the huge growth in demand for private banking services in the region.

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Markus Tanner, the senior talent development partner at UBS Wealth Management, told eFinancialCareers this week that while the bank had already invested in providing a number of platforms for its staff to improve their skills, "it felt it needed additional focus for its most senior client advisors".

This led to the creation of the two-year part-time Masters, for which UBS is currently in negotiations with several leading academic institutions to provide students with external accreditation.

“Our wealth management diploma, which has been available for some time, has become the benchmark programme for mid-level client advisors and since 2009, has become mandatory for all client advisors globally. Now with the addition of the Masters we have a comprehensive offering across the entire spectrum of client advisors. We expect 500 to 600 senior client advisors around the world to go through the Masters programme in the next few years.”

Tanner said that UBS has made a “significant” investment in the programme, although he declined to reveal how much.

The momentum behind providing continuous training and development for UBS wealth management staff has accelerated, Tanner says, due to major changes in the industry arising from new regulation, increased market volatility and uncertainty, and demands from clients for greater transparency,.

“In the current volatile environment, financial advisors need a deeper understanding and knowledge, and they need to be able to have meaningful conversations with clients. And this meant we had to raise our senior advisors to the next level. By doing so, they will also be able to drive the change we are aiming for within the organisation.”

Although there has been an almost exponential increase in the numbers of wealthy in Asia, the level of competition among financial institutions targeting high net wealth individuals (HNWIs) is intense.

A recent report by FinanceAsia said there are 45 banks in the region competing for the business, with 15 having set up shop since 2009. And despite the mind-boggling amount of wealth in the region, it has not been an easy road for many banks, and some of the major firms have already started retreating.

The inaugural intake of students on the UBS programme, which has also been rolled out in Europe and the US, was 88, with 22 coming from UBS offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. Tanner says there are plans to enrol about 100 students a year, with ‘more than 30’ in Asia.

The programme would be used to meet the demand for highly skilled wealth managers in Asia and the rest of the world, but Tanner adds that UBS will also make “strategic hires”.

Graduates of the new Masters programme will be very attractive to other private banks who need quality and quantity when it comes to wealth managers, but Tanner doesn’t believe the investment will be wasted, as the turnover at UBS is “the same if not lower” than the rest of the industry.

And any employee who leaves within 18 months of completing the Masters would be required to repay the costs on a pro-rata basis.

AUTHORAmanda Vermeulen

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