UBS, unlike some banks such as Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays, doesn’t have a high street retail presence, but for the HNW and UHNW audience it caters for – particularly higher up the wealth scale – its brand powers it along. UBS believes that having bankers on the ground who are plugged into a community is worth investing in. “A number of other firms are starting to see what we identified years ago,” Brown said.
Asked about the government’s “levelling up” agenda, Brown said the impact on wealth will come from the companies and entrepreneurs who move into the regions and take flight there. “London and the Southeast must not be the default option for where people set up.”
His colleague Begbour said UBS’s presence in the UK for almost 20 years was important for clients as it proved that the regional strategy is not a fad.
”One reason clients like UBS is that we have been in the regions for a long time while some firms expand for a couple of years or so and then depart. We are clearly committed,” he said.
Show me the receipts
Wealth management may be a long-term, patient business, but it has to be about results in the end. So how does the firm know that ploughing money into local offices is worth the effort?
The bank uses internal surveys of client satisfaction – carried out by external third parties – and net promotor scores, among other metrics, to test how big a dent UBS is making in the regions. “The indicators are very positive on an absolute and relative basis in the business,” Brown said.
“When UBS came to the UK in 1999 it was very much known as an investment bank. I spent much of my career at UBS [since 2005] and we have been building that awareness,” Raffan added.
“Our market is entrepreneurs, both newly-made and multi-generational, so having the right advisors who can engage with clients is important. We also want to be the springboard for our investment banking and asset management divisions into the regional market place,” Brown said.
Inevitably, the question of how regional offices coped with COVID-19 came up.
“For some time now we have (always) been digitally enabled and clients have become more comfortable with meetings on Zoom, Skype and other platforms. But the ability to interact locally with us will remain central,” Brown said. “Going forward it will be a mix in which there will be annual get-togethers with families and also meetings via Zoom, where we can easily include a product specialist on private equity or sustainable investing or a wealth planner etc,” he said. “Our clients have adopted new habits and demands, and we’re well positioned for further growth.”
Raffan said that she and her clients have seized the chance to have open-air conversations when circumstances allowed.
“I have had a few `walking relationships’ with clients,” talking about meeting clients outdoors for a socially-distanced walk as a contrast to sitting over a desk or going on a video. Clients like it she said, quipping that she keeps a pair of Wellington boots in her car for meeting people out in the countryside.