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UBS's Zeltner targets new revenue streams for wealth management

As chief executive of UBS Wealth management since 2009, and head of what is now clearly the group’s most important business, Jürg Zeltner, looking more youthful than a 25-year veteran of the bank has any right to, speaks to Euromoney as one of the most powerful figures on the UBS group executive board. He is pleased with his division’s re-emergence as an active asset manager, its return to the top of the Euromoney private banking rankings and with the success of its signature discretionary management products for high-net-worth clients. But he is restless to grow and improve the business in various ways, by developing its product mix, revenue streams and client profile.

"I want to improve the client-segment mix. We are, if anything, too weighted towards ultra-high-net-worth clients," he tells Euromoney. These very wealthiest and most demanding customers contribute something like 40% of the group’s SFr1.6 trillion of client assets under management.

Operating almost like institutions rather than as individuals, they have considerable buying power. They tend to pay brokerage commissions rather than asset management fees and, as UBS has stumbled from the sub-prime crisis, to rogue trader scandals and now Libor manipulation, they have been flighty. The first customers to leave the bank when its troubles began were institutional; even the most long-standing clients drew the lesson to distribute their business more widely among wealth managers. High-net-worth clients proved to be more sticky.

Jürg Zeltner, chief executive of UBS Wealth Management
Jürg Zeltner, chief executive of UBS Wealth Management

The take-up by those high-net-worth clients of UBS’s discretionary management offering has filled Zeltner with confidence in the group’s capability as an asset manager. This has even been evident in Asia, where the received wisdom is that wealthy clients want either brokerage or leverage, but not asset management.

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