With 125.3 billion Swiss francs in assets under management, Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) is one of the largest private banks in Switzerland, and also one of the country’s best-capitalised banks. UBP specialises in wealth management for private and institutional clients, and has 1,697 employees across more than 20 locations around the world. We interviewed Michel Longhini during his visit to Monaco to meet Thierry Garde, the new head of UBP’s local branch.
What are the strengths that make UBP stand out?
We are a “pure player” in international private banking. UBP is a family-owned, unlisted, private bank that has a solid balance sheet (32 billion Swiss francs as at 31 December 2017) and a high liquidity ratio. We are also one of the best-capitalised Swiss banks in the world, which gives our clients a real sense of security.
Our client base is very international: some of them have opted to be based in Monaco, while others live in Switzerland, Asia, Luxembourg, London, the Middle East and Northern Europe.
What is your development strategy?
Our development is based on four key values: Dedication, Conviction, Agility and Responsibility.
We have been able to seize external growth opportunities, for example by acquiring the international private banking businesses of Lloyds in 2013, and that of Coutts in 2015. But organic growth is also very important.
We focus exclusively on wealth management for private and institutional clients, and we have high-level skills in all areas of that business.
We are able to offer clients customised, conviction-based solutions that are tailored to each client’s needs and we are particularly renowned for our asset-allocation expertise.
What is the thinking behind your presence in Monaco?
Monaco is a growing financial centre – an attractive option for wealthy clients wishing to relocate.
We have a strong presence in Monaco, with around 50 members of staff and 4 billion Swiss francs in assets under management.
We have ensured that our business complies optimally with requirements relating to transparency and the automatic exchange of information. The rules are the same for everybody, meaning major changes, both in the way we manage clients, who need to be kept fully informed, and as regards our people, who need to be trained accordingly. There are more constraints than before, but at UBP we understand them and we have integrated them into our business model.
Our priority is to respond to our clients’ expectations and to meet their demands, which means having an in-depth knowledge of their needs. We work with our clients to ensure that regulatory and tax constraints are fully taken into consideration.
All of our Monaco assets are managed by our teams in the Principality. Although we set our investment policy at Group level, the specialists working at our Monaco branch are entirely involved in the process. Choosing from our very broad range of products and services, they have both the ability and the freedom to select the most appropriate and sophisticated solutions for our Monaco-based clients.
Three quarters of our local clients are resident in Monaco, but they originate from around the world, including from Russia, the Middle East, Western Europe, Northern Europe and Asia. They like Monaco because of its stability, which is a major attraction for international clients. They are looking to take advantage of investment opportunities, relocate assets and buy real estate.
We want to grow our existing client base and develop our business in Monaco.
Do you work with external wealth managers?
Indeed, and we have a desk dedicated to dealing with external wealth managers. They manage around 15% of the total assets of our Private Banking business (13 billion Swiss francs), making them a significant – and fast-growing – sector for the Bank.
We also provide family office advice through Family Office Services Switzerland (FOSS) to families that are looking for support in this area.
UBP is a Swiss private bank with a strong international culture that comes from a range of acquisitions, such as those of ABN AMRO, Lloyds and Coutts. This diversity of profiles, nationalities and cultures might be seen as a challenge, but that is far from the truth: they are an integral part of the Bank’s success. The key to a successful acquisition is the ability to integrate, and this is one of the things at which we excel, as shown by our staff and client’s fidelity.
Thierry Garde, the new head of UBP’s local branch