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Close to the heart: Women’s wealth matters in private banking

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This International Women’s Day, private bankers and wealth managers across the region speak to Asian Private Banker on the finer nuances of addressing the high net worth female demographic, including wealthy women’s deepest worries and most pressing concerns, the evolving roles and burdens they assume in wealth planning and transfer, and their investment interests and priorities.

  1. Top concerns: What are some of your female clients’ top concerns, and which areas of wealth management are women most interested in?
  2. Wealth planning: In what ways is the role of women evolving in succession and wealth planning?
  3. Product appetite: What differences do you see in women’s appetite for private banking products and services?

Marina Lui, head of China business, UBS Wealth Management

On wealth planning: In Asia, the greater longevity of women is a key reason why women need to focus on longer-term financial planning. Indeed, according to our latest UBS Investor Watch, more than 70% of Hong Kong women believe they will outlive their spouse. We should acknowledge their financial challenges and turn longevity into an opportunity.

I believe most women understand that financial planning can help them own both their present and future. As they go through a number of critical stages in life, most of them worry about their long-term care planning, retirement, and insurance. Our clients fully understand that with concrete planning and professional advice, they can have financial security through it all, regardless of their stage of life.

On product appetite: In general, female clients are less aggressive than men when it comes to investments, and are more inclined to look for long-term and stable investments. Most female clients prefer following a disciplined plan for their wealth and are less likely to try ‘time the market’. Women also tend to trade less, which helps their portfolios outperform men’s portfolios with the same risk/return profile. My advice to them would be first and foremost to focus on the long term and stay invested. Also, maintain a diversified portfolio, always integrate sustainable investments in your portfolio, and start wealth planning as early as possible.

Better serving female clients is a business priority at UBS Global Wealth Management. Be it men or women, we need financial advisors who understand women’s unique needs, goals and views towards money. We remain fully committed to this very important client segment and will continue to focus our advisory capabilities, evolve our client offering, conduct dedicated research, implement the female/gender view in all relevant processes, and increase the overall diversity of our workforce.

Alice Tan, head of private wealth and head of products & investment solutions, Maybank Singapore

On top concerns: Women, depending on their marital and career status, have different concerns. Those with family commitments and an extended family would look for accrual growth in their financial and property assets, and even consider an endowment fund for posterity. Female business owners tend to be concerned with business continuity and would be keen to spread their risks with a diversified portfolio, buying into fixed income and structured products.

Unlike men, women see value in owning heirloom treasures in the form of limited edition bags, art pieces, watches, jewellery, and haute couture. All these add up to their wealth assets.

On wealth planning: A succession plan is crucial when it comes to ensuring the continued success of a family business. For women, helming a family business, finance, relationships and legacy are inseparable.

Maybank Private recommends structuring the family liaison around four decision-making pillars: families must first discuss the roles and responsibilities that key family members will take on, decide whether the family will maintain control or invite outside shareholders and have a governance structure, agree on the values and principles that will underscore and guide investment decision-making, as well as consider wealth transfer channels and the myriad of legal and tax implications which follow.

On product appetite: Globally, most women listed on Forbes’ list attained wealth through their family wealth, rather than via entrepreneurial activities. Hence, it is not surprising that HNW female clients are generally more risk-averse than their male counterparts, as their wealth was made passively, rather than through taking business risks. Demand for yield products is more pronounced among female HNW clients. That said, we are seeing a clear trend of second-generation HNW women being better educated and more involved in their family businesses. As this group of female investors grows more sophisticated, it is imperative that we engage them deeper in the area of investments by making more resources available to them, such as investment specialists to address their investment needs, and also encouraging them to participate in investment outlook seminars.

Kanas Chan, head of North Asia, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management

On top concerns: Female clients tend to be more risk-averse than men. Depending on their portfolio compositions, women are often focused on wealth preservation rather than return generation.

On wealth planning: From my experience, female clients are generally more interested in wealth succession planning and are more keen to exchange ideas in preparing heirs for continuing the legacy of their families’ business and wealth. High net worth clients usually possess assets around the world, so with more and more regulatory changes in different jurisdictions, clients may find it challenging to understand the evolutions. Therefore, we at Deutsche Bank Wealth Management, are providing educational events and professional advice to women to keep them updated on the regulatory changes and market trends.

On product appetite: Traditionally, female clients are more interested in stable-income instruments and tend not to invest in overly complicated investments. However, there has been a shift in recent years where women in the region are becoming more independent with their own finances, and they are more open to family wealth-planning ideas. At Deutsche Bank WM, we update our clients with our CIO views and market trends on a regular basis. We also organise different thought-leadership events to provide strategic and insightful ideas to help with family wealth transfer and succession planning.

Grizelda Lee, head of DPM, Asia, Indosuez Wealth Management

On top concerns: It is common to find women who feel that taking care of others is a personal expectation, hence very often, issues like financial independence, children’s education planning, legacy planning, etc. strike a chord.

On wealth planning: These days, women are gradually more so the primary decision makers for financial planning, especially as our society becomes more inclusive. What appears to be prudent, like succession planning and wealth structuring, can, in reality, be an emotionally draining exercise. It is important to lay the groundwork for such complex transitions earlier, instead of waiting for trigger points like ailing health or business buyouts.

On product appetite: Many a time, my conversations with female clients revolve around conservative investing, capital preservation, and customisation. However, in time, we also need to take into consideration other factors like lifestyle, behavioural profiling, personal life — as is the case with men, women are not a homogenous group.

Sim S. Lim, group head of consumer banking and wealth management, DBS Bank

On product appetite: Based on our products, we have observed that female clients are generally interested in achieving a positive impact through their investments. They also tend to be less active on digital investment platforms compared to men. That said, recent research studies have found that when women do invest, they tend to make more informed and calculated decisions than men.

Our view is that every individual is unique and so are their needs — this goes beyond categorising by gender. We focus on understanding our clients as individuals, taking into consideration their investment styles, priorities, and preferences.

On wealth planning: Increasingly, there are fewer differences in the roles that women and men play today in succession planning. What really matters is their ability to cultivate wealth and take it to the next level, and honour their family’s legacy. As wealth changes hands, what’s interesting is how the next-gen’s globalised perspectives and growing concerns of what’s happening in this world play out. Already, we’re seeing a shift in philanthropy from traditional cheque-giving to sustainable investing and social enterprises.

This is where banks have a role to play — as advisors, we are well placed to help them realise their ability to do good for society and provide access to ways in which they can do so meaningfully. For instance, we at DBS hold a quarterly ‘Windows to Philanthropy’ lunch series to introduce our clients to a range of philanthropy-related topics and connect them to social entrepreneurs.

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