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Wealth managers told to shape up

Keystone

Financial advisers must do more to meet the demands of the world's richest people as they compete to manage their wealth, according to the head of Swiss bank UBS.

This content was published on May 24, 2006 - 16:45

Peter Wuffli said that many affluent clients are dissatisfied with the service received from bankers struggling to come to grips with an increasingly complicated sector.

Wuffli, chief executive of Switzerland's largest bank, warned that financial institutions had not yet found the right way to service this rapidly growing sector.

Speaking at the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Institute Conference in Zurich this week, he said that traditional banking practices were often at odds with clients' expectations

"The instinct of a banker is to draw out the value of an asset and then present it to the client," he added. "But wealthy people hate to be on the end of the chain, they want to be involved at the beginning. There needs to be a huge change in attitude."

Wuffli identified the two key challenges facing financial advisors as keeping abreast of a changing industry and developing better relations with seriously rich clients.

"Wealth management is tremendously diverse in terms of geography, risk and liquidity which makes it very complex. It is hard to cope with this enormously challenging environment," he said.

He also admitted that dealing with wealthy individuals was not always easy and required a lot of social skills.

Secrecy

Responding to questions about Switzerland's banking secrecy and criminal activity, Wuffli pointed out that money laundering had become more difficult than in many other countries.

But he added that despite its best efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the country is still viewed suspiciously in some quarters.

"It is somewhat annoying for the Swiss that there is the likelihood that in every novel the crook will deposit their money in a Swiss bank," he said, challenging critics to put their money where their mouth is.

"The doubters just have to see how difficult it is to open a bank account in Switzerland without showing a plausible source for their money," he added.

Wuffli also defended the Swiss tax system, claiming it was not designed to help the rich avoid paying their dues

"The Swiss tax system traditionally involves a high degree of privacy and competition amongst cantons," he said.

"The other way is for tax to imposed by a central authority. We don't say that our way is best, but there is a strong case for keeping government authority in check."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Key facts

The CFA Institute is an international, non-profit organisation of investment professionals in 124 countries.
Founded in 1925, it has more than 70,000 members and some 131 member societies.
The 59th edition of the CFA Institute Conference chose Zurich as its first ever location outside of North America.

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In brief

The global private equity market is worth an estimated $2.5 trillion managed in about 8,000 funds, according to 2006 International Monetary Fund statistics.

UBS figures show the wealth management sector grew by 5.5% in 2005, exceeding the average global GDP by 1.4%.

The strongest growth came in Asia (excluding Japan) 8.9%, followed by Europe's 6.6%, with the US seeing a 4.9% rise in wealth management.

UBS is the largest wealth manager in the world with SFr1.734 billion ($1.44 billion) in invested assets.

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