What UBS’s US wealth business is learning from serving ultra-rich clients from home: ‘If we wanted to have more people work remotely in the future, we could support that’ (UBS)

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  • Jason Chandler, the head of UBS’s US wealth management operation, said this week that the business could support more people working from home following the coronavirus crisis. 
  • The bank has already learned lessons during the process of shifting global staff to socially distant working conditions, including how to serve clients remotely and lean on multiple communication channels.
  • Chandler said remote work has underlined how important digital tools are for the firm’s army of some 10,000 financial advisers.
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At UBS, the Swiss bank known as one of the world’s largest wealth managers catering primarily to the rich, executives have been forced to navigate the novel coronavirus with a network of offices around the world.

And they’re already considering more permanent changes to the way employees are operating.

Jason Chandler, the head of UBS’s US wealth management operation, said that the unit is thinking about warming to more employees working from home since shifting to an unprecedented all-remote work arrangement in recent weeks.

“It gives us the confidence that if we wanted to have more people work remotely in the future, we could support that,” Chandler said Wednesday on a call with reporters.

The bank, headquartered in Zurich, has some 68,600 employees around the world, with around a third of that workforce in global wealth management. The lion’s share of its 10,000 financial advisers work in the Americas. 

The whole process has highlighted the many ways clients want to connect with advisers, whether that’s through video-conferencing, email, phone calls, or texting, Chandler said. In an effort to connect to clients in different ways, the bank could look to invest in additional channels of communication. 

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich

Reuters


Communication between financial advisers and clients is often heavily monitored at big banks for compliance, so securing safe, efficient ways of getting in touch with social-distancing measures in place is critical for wealth managers.

Business Insider previously reported UBS’s wealth management business recently completely overhauled its iPhone app, a sign that the most high-brow firms are trying to better utilize technology to cater to the world’s richest clients.

Skype for Business is the firm’s preferred video-conferencing software, Chandler said on Wednesday, because it’s secure and that’s what matters to clients.

“Our high-net-worth to ultra-high-net-worth clients want to make sure their data is secure,” he said. “There’s been some other reporting on some of the other video platforms where the security may not be as strong, so we’re very pleased with that.”

While he didn’t mention it by name, the video-conferencing software Zoom is having a moment during the remote work wave the coronavirus pandemic has created. But industry experts have scrutinized its security, and this week Zoom — whose shares have soared this year — said it was forming a chief information security officer advisory board to better engage on matters of security.

Remote work highlights the need for strong digital infrastructure in wealth management

UBS has tried to strike a balance between offering clients digital tools and offering them a full-service financial adviser, whose entire value proposition versus some do-it-yourself investment options rests on the human touch. 

Some tweaks UBS has made have been meaningful for clients, Chandler said.

For instance, the daily mobile check deposit limit for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients was raised from $1 million after hearing feedback from clients. A UBS spokesperson decline to specify the new limit, citing security concerns. 

He’s also heard positive feedback on UBS’s Asset Wizard, a tool that tracks clients’ assets across banks. Aggregation tools can benefit banks who can see where clients are holding assets away from the bank.

“The interest in that in this work-from-home period has gone up incredibly,” Chandler said, adding that he is increasingly looking at technology that advisers can use to assist them with clients. 

More broadly, UBS has “successfully managed very high volumes across our businesses, particularly in our trading operations,” according to a separate Thursday presentation featuring a firm-wide overview. 

UBS said in the investor presentation that staff is working remotely wherever possible, and that in other regions it’s incorporated “early lessons” firm-wide from implementing split-operations procedures in Asia.

Business Insider reported in early February that UBS had restricted employees’ travel in China, and had implemented split-team policies in Switzerland in early March as precautions. 

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