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UOB Aims to Dominate Singapore’s Private Wealth Sector

Chew Mun Yew, managing director and head of private wealth at UOB is on a mission to significantly expand the bank’s private wealth business.

He believes UOB has not yet realised its full potential, and its strong offering, customer-centric approach and personalised services leave it well positioned to win market share in Singapore’s competitive private wealth sector.

UOB does not provide a breakdown of figures for its private wealth business, instead reporting them under its group retail business, which posted an impressive 11 per cent rise in assets under management (AUM) for wealth management to S$154 billion in 2022.

The private wealth business accounts for more than half of this total, and Chew has made it known that it is his ambition is to grow AUM for private wealth to S$120 billion by 2026 - a level he believes will enable the business to compete effectively with scale.

While this target may appear daunting, Chew points out that UOB has a number of factors in its favour. Its private wealth business, which was created through combining UOB’s Private Bank and Privilege Reserve businesses, offers the full range of investment and wealth and succession playing services catering to the region’s rising number of high net worth individuals.

Chew also believes there is currently an opportunity for UOB to grow its market share in ASEAN due to changes in the region’s banking sector as global players withdraw and fintechs face heightened regulation.

It is further helped by the fact that high net worth individuals in Asia tend to hold accounts with a number of institutions, creating opportunities to win new clients, who also exhibit a strong preference for local banks operating within Singapore’s robust regulatory framework.

Meanwhile, UOB boasts a strong regional network with the largest ASEAN footprint of any Singapore bank. This presence not only enables it to serve clients across multiple jurisdictions, but it also gives it a deep understanding of the business environment in different ASEAN countries, knowledge it can pass on to its business-owner customers.

To tap into this strength, UOB has set up an internal reference system under which bankers in the region refer business clients to its private wealth arm. With more than 500 branches and offices in 19 countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America, this has proved to be a key way of growing the business. To ensure it has the capacity to meet the rising demand for its services, UOB has increased the number of relationship managers in its private wealth arm to more than 300.

The business has strong momentum behind it, with record inflows of net new assets of more than S$8 billion in 2022. Around 20% of this total was generated through UOB’s ‘One Bank’ ecosystem.

Chew himself has an impressive track record of delivering growth. After starting his career as a lecturer in philosopher at the National University of Singapore, he transitioned into the financial services industry more than two decades ago.

His first post in the sector was as deputy director at regulator the Monetary Authority of Singapore, followed by stints at American Express and DBS Bank.

He and his team helped to turnaround Ta Chong Bank in Taiwan during the global financial crisis. He is also proud of the near doubling in revenue that he oversaw at UBS Wealth Management and as head of Greater China business at Julius Baer.

A key part of Chew’s strategy is ensuring he has the right talent in place, and he places great emphasis on finding good leaders and building strong teams, which he dubs creating management alpha.

He sees the leader’s role as setting a meaningful purpose and empowering the team to make the right decisions and take the right actions, which then translate into strong business performance.

He is also highly analytical, taking a strategic approach to maximising a business’ protentional, starting by identifying what factors may be causing a business to underperform.

Armed with this knowledge, Chew then sets about fixing the issues and looking for areas of strength that give the business an edge in the marketplace to enable it to grow and deliver value.

Identifying areas of strength has not been a problem with UOB. One key differentiator UOB has is its full service offering to different segments of the market. One such segment is Singapore’s buoyant entrepreneur scene.

These are clients are attracted by UOB’s strong commercial banking arm, which is able to support then as they expand their businesses into new markets, while its private wealth business takes care of their own needs as their wealth grows.

Despite the current volatile investment landscape, UOB’s discretionary portfolio management (DPM) enjoyed a strong year with revenue growth of 26% in 2022.

Chew explains that DPM is tailored to meet individual customers’ needs through offering different levels of service, ranging from execution only to customised investment mandates.

Overall, it helps clients build resilience into their portfolios to enable them to weather difficult investment conditions and capture opportunities as they arise, just as UOB’s private wealth business is doing.

AUTHORUnited Overseas Bank

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