Financial Planning / Wealth Management

Market sizzles on upbeat sentiments

by Charles Mak

Amy Lo, managing director
regional market manager
Hong Kong, UBS Wealth Management
Photo: Edde Ngan

Hong Kong's wealth management industry quick to regain strength

As the world emerges from the recent financial upheavals, Hong Kong's status as a pre-eminent wealth management centre in the region and its proximity to mainland China will only bolster the city's unique position for capturing growth up north.

"Hong Kong benefits from the growing affluence within the region. Clients across the region are opting to book their assets in regional wealth management centres that are culturally attuned to their needs," notes Amy Lo, managing director, regional market manager, Hong Kong, UBS Wealth Management.

Ms Lo stresses that Asia Pacific in general, and Hong Kong in particular, will remain upbeat in the wealth management market. "Continuous wealth creation in the region, the monetisation of non-financial assets into financial assets, the generational transfer of wealth and the increased need for holistic professional advice as clients grow increasingly discerning and sophisticated, are expected to drive continuous growth," she remarks.

Prospects of China's subsequent integration into the world market essentially give Hong Kong an upper hand in the global banking and finance arena. Ms Lo notes that two years of volatility have not shaken Hong Kong's international standing as a top financial centre in the region, although the operating environment has now been transformed significantly to align with new capital requirements, product regulations, ethical standards of suitability and more stringent professional qualification requirements.

"The finesse with which the industry is able to meet client needs in an environment of increased regulatory control will be central to sustainable success," Ms Lo says.

Changing landscapes

Wealth management is a core business for UBS, and the bank is training its sights on investing in its talent, technological capabilities and corporate platform.

Supported by a tried and tested integrated infrastructure, UBS provides its diverse clientele proprietary access to an array of investment banking and asset management expertise which is buoyed by the bank's dedicated teams of wealth management research and products and services consulting personnel.

UBS takes pride in its 800-strong adviser team—one of the largest in the region but Ms Lo emphasises that the bank is not ready to rest on its laurels. In view of the growing financial literacy of clients and investors alike, she foresees that research-based wealth management advice will play an even more instrumental role in the future development of the bank's service portfolio.

With a view to becoming the number one international bank for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients, UBS is looking to augment its presence in Hong Kong and Singapore while eyeing the accelerating organic growth in Japan and strengthening its foothold in mainland China.

The bank's China platform comprises the UBS Securities (UBSS) arm which began operations on the mainland in 2006 and currently has six branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, providing a wide range of securities investment services to a fast expanding client population across the border. Its two regional hubs, Hong Kong and Singapore, are also well positioned to cater services for various demographic groups of clients.

"China is currently the world's fastest growing emerging wealth market and the country is gathering strong wealth creation momentum," Ms Lo points out. "Entrepreneurs constitute the dominant client segment on the mainland and they demand a holistic approach to wealth management. To this end, we will continue to make significant investment in staff training and development to keep our advisers abreast of changes in the market and ensure that they are equipped with all necessary tools to assist their clients in managing risk as well as opportunity with utmost efficiency."

Optimal environment

The dynamics of competition in the Hong Kong market is generating mounting interest among players in the field with a keen eye on the growth potential and the wealth of untapped opportunities in growth markets like mainland China. "Wealth managers are pulling out all the stops to capture growth in the accelerating Asian markets," Ms Lo confirms. "China, in particular, is clearly the growth market for decades ahead."

Increased cooperation and a unified regulatory system for cross-border business will eventually reward competent professionals who respond to client needs and demand in the most efficient manner. Ms Lo notes that professional training programmes such as those offered by the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers serve as a career springboard for those looking to develop an edge in the highly competitive banking and finance industry.

"Wealth management will continue to be a viable career option for aspiring professionals who are numerate, personable and able to demonstrate a high level of dedication and commitment," Ms Lo remarks.

She cautions however that the complexity of the global financial market will present challenge and that more important now than ever, it is essential for wealth managers to excise dexterity while seeking to assist clients in achieving their financial goals by adopting a more strategic approach to asset allocation.

Picking up pace

  • Asian markets quick to return to robust growth
  • Closer ties with mainland China bolster Hong Kong's advantageous position
  • Research-based wealth management advice to increase in importance
  • Wealth management a viable career choice for budding professionals

Taken from Career Times 12 March 2010, A12

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