ZURICH/LONDON (1) – When markets slumped in March as the unfold of coronavirus gathered tempo, wealth managers’ buying and selling volumes soared as extremely rich purchasers reshuffled their portfolios.

FILE PHOTO: The brand of Swiss financial institution UBS at its Zurich headquarters in Switzerland, July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photograph

It was this market frenzy that helped Swiss banks UBS (UBSG.S) and Credit score Suisse (CSGN.S) – the world’s greatest wealth managers – put up bumper first-quarter income whereas a lot of the world banking sector was scrambling to make provisions to face up to the financial fallout from the pandemic.

UBS acquired up to four million quote requests a day from personal purchasers in the quarter – double the December degree of such enquiries about potential transactions – whereas its advisers performed tens of hundreds of portfolio evaluations every month.

Whereas banks which can be extra centered on industrial lending put aside billions in provisions, the massive wealth managers have discovered that banking for billionaires has swelled their very own coffers with outsized transaction charges at the same time as the world financial system takes a battering from the coronavirus crisis.

“Conditions like this, whereas they pose dangers and wish to be very proactively managed, additionally present alternatives, as we noticed,” stated Iqbal Khan, co-head of UBS’s $2.three trillion world wealth enterprise, which recorded its finest first quarter since the monetary crisis.

Whereas plunging markets dented the total degree of managed property and falling rates of interest hit curiosity earnings, UBS’s web margins on managed cash rose to 20 foundation factors, their highest in years.

Credit score Suisse managed double-digit revenue development in the quarter regardless of bulking up on provisions for anticipated credit score losses. U.S. lenders Goldman Sachs (GS.N), JPMorgan (JPM.N) and Financial institution of America (BAC.N) additionally recorded jumps in wealth administration income whereas personal banks Pictet and Vontobel (VONN.S) plan to open new branches and broaden their groups.

The resilience of wealth administration additionally serves to validate the strategic adjustments Switzerland’s greatest banks revamped the previous decade, inserting higher emphasis on managing rich individuals’s cash and fewer on wholesale buying and selling.

“It’s a extra worthwhile mannequin than common friends in European banking,” stated Citi analyst Nicholas Herman.

“The losses that you simply see by means of the cycle are a lot decrease. In contrast with different main lenders, the provisions for anticipated credit score losses we noticed in wealth administration in the first quarter had been small.”


The query now, nonetheless, is how to maintain income as market volatility and buying and selling volumes subside.

Many are specializing in discovering purchasers’ funding alternatives outdoors public markets – usually involving distressed property – in addition to lending extra to these whose companies want additional money to tide them by means of the crisis.

“Should you’re a massive household workplace immediately, you’re sitting on money hopefully. You may mortgage that money or present it to a firm you personal, otherwise you may deploy that money to purchase distressed property which have long-term worth,” stated Claudio de Sanctis, Deutsche Financial institution’s (DBKGn.DE) world head of wealth administration.

Non-public fairness – notably in areas associated to distressed property, healthcare or know-how – has turn into a focus, senior managers from 4 main lenders informed 1.

At UBS, purchasers are trying for alternatives to put money into the actual financial system as the value of borrowing comes down.

“Our investor sentiment survey clearly confirmed that, round the world, rich buyers nonetheless have liquidity obtainable to commit to danger property,” stated Tom Naratil, Khan’s co-head of wealth at UBS.

The financial institution’s survey discovered that 37% of rich buyers wished to enhance their investments over the subsequent six months.

And huge banks are trying to assist them achieve this by means of elevated lending.

“We’ve been extending our steadiness sheet to purchasers throughout industries and sectors, to assist them of their COVID administration, and have been alternatives with them to take benefit of locking in very low charges,” stated JPMorgan’s head of personal banking in Britain and Eire, Oliver Gregson.


However as returns from commonplace methods turn into squeezed, scale is changing into more and more vital, analysts and business specialists say, with entrepreneurs, heirs and multi-millionaires searching for advanced financing and offers to protect their households’ wealth and companies in the face of shrinking asset swimming pools.

“Sometimes when we’ve our world funding technique group calls, we’ve 1,000-2,000 purchasers on a name. Now it’s 10,000 on common,” one senior personal banker stated, including that the group is bringing collectively specialists and buyers from throughout its divisions to present advanced recommendation that may show tough for smaller organisations.

Even so, the business is just not immune to the pandemic. As depressed markets cut back total asset ranges, wealth managers will undergo a drop in the charges generated by managing property.

“We had a improbable first quarter, however in Q1 you didn’t have a huge impact in phrases of asset discount,” Deutsche Financial institution’s de Sanctis stated, including that a additional extended downturn would change the state of affairs.

“Finally … you will notice that translating into income contractions for any wealth supervisor. That is a common legislation.”

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Simon Jessop; Enhancing by David Goodman