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Wealth managers tease out value with futurology

Private bankers are intent on finding value for their investors by identifying and harnessing influential emerging economic and social trends. Chris Wright reports.

By Chris Wright

IT’S ALL ABOUT big ideas. If you’re a private bank in Asia, you probably already have scale, good customer service, reputation and execution. So how are you to set yourself apart from your peers? Ideally, it should be by identifying things that can offer value to your clients before everybody else does, and working out how to get exposure for those clients.

Private banks today hire people to think of these big new ideas. If population demographics are shifting in a country or a region, what does that mean for investors? If we are all going to move to a new fuel, how can clients make money out of this transformation? If the world is running out of water, what can we build to make the situation an investment play? The best private bankers devote a lot of time to identifying trends that might take 20 years to pan out, then either structuring products to match them or finding partners who know what they’re doing to work alongside.

This can take many forms. In March, for example, UBS launched the UBS Diapason Global Biofuel Index, which it dubs the first commodity-based index for biological fuels.

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