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UBS, Credit Suisse shotgun marriage ramps up competition in … – The Australian Financial Review

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UBS’s 3 billion Swiss franc ($4.9 billion) shotgun marriage with rival Credit Suisse in March has not borne much in the way of good news for Credit Suisse bankers in Australia.
The Swiss bank’s Australian outpost is a low priority for decision makers in Zurich, while many in Credit Suisse’s investment banking and equities arms have either left, or fine-tuned their resumes searching for another opportunity.
Credit Suisse’s wealth management team could soon move into the Chifley Tower where UBS’ investment banking team sits. Louie Douvis
But for Credit Suisse’s lauded private bankers, there are reasons to smile.
UBS exited Australian wealth management less than a decade ago, while Credit Suisse’s franchise remains one of the top private banks. UBS has also made no secret of its desire to absorb its rival’s private bank to service ultra-high-net-worth customers and institutional clients like family offices.
In fact, Nick Hughes, the joint country head and chief operating officer for UBS Australasia, said he recognised how formidable Credit Suisse’s private bank was, and told The Australian Financial Review that he looked “forward to building on that success.”
And Michael Marr, Credit Suisse’s head of wealth management for Australia and New Zealand, said he was “excited” for what the tie-up with UBS might hold for the firm’s 110-strong private banker outfit.
Michael Marr, Credit Suisse head of wealth management, Australia and New Zealand 
Then in a further development, Edmund Koh, UBS’s Asia-Pacific president, and August Hatecke, the co-head of UBS’ Asia wealth management, touched down in Sydney from Singapore during the first week of May.
The pair held meetings with the Credit Suisse team, and it is expected UBS will house Credit Suisse’s private bank within UBS’ Asia-Pacific operations, people familiar with the plans, who could not speak publicly, said.
While the finer points have not been ironed out, it is almost certain the world’s largest wealth manager is returning to Australia, and for Credit Suisse’s private bankers, they could not be happier.
Not only does the private bank get the lifeline its investment banking and markets peers do not, but wealth managers get to link up with UBS’ Australian equities and investment banking arms.
UBS’s assumption of Credit Suisse’s private bank also means Australia’s wealth management space remains fiercely competitive.
Under the UBS name, the Credit Suisse team will go toe-to-toe with Morgan Stanley and LGT Crestone, the wealth unit that UBS spun out in 2015. It has become one of the country’s top private banks, and now comes face-to-face with its former employer, which let it walk away through a management buyout.
Unlike 2015, when UBS last played in the wealth management space, the landscape has changed. Goldman Sachs exited most of its wealth management business when it sold its stake in wealth adviser JBWere to National Australia Bank in 2016.
Goldman Sachs still has about six people in Australia, but it is not as fierce a competitor as it once was.
NAB, meanwhile, picked up Citi’s wealth management portfolio when the US bank sold its local consumer outfit last June.
There has also been a slight re-emergence of global firms wanting to compete in Australia, people familiar with the situation said.
JPMorgan, for example, is present, but only services Australians with $25 million or more in their bank accounts. The US bank does this largely out of Singapore, people familiar said.
“The current landscape is more a shuffling of the decks. There are still very few firms with a truly differentiated service offering, who are integrated in a global platform and with long-term client relationships,” said Rebecca Hill, head of wealth management Australia at Morgan Stanley.
Locals like NAB accommodate much of Australia’s wealthy retail investors. But it is three main players vying for the institutional, wholesale investors like family offices: LGT Crestone, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, or soon to be, UBS.
“UBS just replaces Credit Suisse as a competitor in the Australian market. We have competed successfully against Credit Suisse for years,” Ms Hill said.
One of the more fascinating aspects of Australia’s wealth management space is how private bankers are remunerated.
Credit Suisse, for example, pays a base salary and awards bankers a bonus from a shared pool each year.
LGT Crestone and Morgan Stanley pay their bankers on a so-called “grid structure.” Under the grid, bankers earn a percentage of how much revenue they bring to the business.
It is a contentious point among many private bankers. Those who prefer the salary-plus-bonus model are drawn to the consistent pay cheque, but those who favour the grid are rewarded handsomely based on how much, and who, they bring to the firm.
LGT Crestone pays a salary, but its advisers get a slice of the total investment that comes in from each client they advise.
Therefore, grid structures are often attractive for those higher-performing advisers with a growing book of clients.
That means firms are always on the hunt for new talent. If a successful private banker has the ear of wealthy people, they can hit the ground running at a new firm and rake in fees.
“They all have their nuances and uniqueness, but clearly, there is a huge war for talent,” Michael Chisholm, chief executive at LGT Crestone said.
Michael Chisholm, Crestone LGT CEO. Edwina Pickles
“Whatever your compensation model is, it has got to be competitive. Otherwise, you will not be able to retain your best staff.”
Under UBS, Credit Suisse’s private bankers will continue to earn a bonus plus their salary.
What has also changed is how wealthy Australians’ invest their money.
Investors are looking to net greater returns overseas, and they are diversifying beyond equities and real estate.
“High-net-worth Australians and family offices are increasingly sophisticated with complex wealth needs,” Ms Hill said.
“[Clients] need access to a global suite of products and investment insights.”
Alternative assets, like private credit funds is another area of great interest for Australian high-net-worth individuals.
Mr Chisholm said it was imperative, particularly when equity markets are volatile like today, to diversify holdings into alternative assets.
Companies are staying private longer, and many are turning to private sources like superannuation funds and private debt funds for capital requirements. Less look to volatile stock markets, which have see-sawed in the last year as company valuations have fallen and inflation has ticked up.
“There is increased demand from our clients for investing in alternatives and private markets. I think that is showing the ongoing maturity of the Australian wealth industry,” said Mr Chisholm.
It has not always been the easiest sell, however. Local investors remain heavy on cash investments, publicly traded stocks and real estate – all linchpins of the wealthy Australian.
As wealth advisers push clients to diversify, Mr Chisholm said, “home bias” – when investors stick to what they know, like stocks – remained a persistent challenge for private bankers.
“Investors have a strong bias in things that they know and consume every day. They are uncomfortable going into something they do not understand or is somewhat alien to them. It exists everywhere, but in Australia, it is quite pronounced,” Mr Chisholm said on home bias.
“But the important thing when diversifying – in things like alternatives – not only benefits your portfolio, but also gives outstanding return-risk-reward profiles.”
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