UBS retains top spot as world's biggest private bank with US$1.74 trn managed assets

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen on a building in Zurich, Switzerland.
The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen on a building in Zurich, Switzerland. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Swiss private banking giant UBS has retained the title of the world's biggest private bank, according to a study by wealth management researcher Scorpio Partnership.

Although its assets under management (AUM) fell 1 per cent from 2014 to 2015, it still topped the global rankings, with US$1.74 trillion (S$2.34 trillion) at December 2015.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch came in second, with AUM of US$1.444 trillion - down 2 per cent for the year, while Morgan Stanley was third with US$1.439 trillion, down 2.8 per cent.

"In the last financial year, the majority of private banking institutions experienced a notable slow down in AUM growth and a squeeze on operating margins," Scorpio Partnership noted in its report.

"Among the factors affecting results has been volatile markets and clients hesitating to onboard business at levels previously experienced."

Amid the rough operating conditions, Scorpio Partnership said the 25 biggest banks did better than their smaller counterparts.

"Unlike smaller operators, many appear to have benefited from their ability to reach out and appeal to a wider market," it said.

The top 25 managed US$11 trillion at the end of last year, representing a 56.3 per cent market share, up from 55.9 per cent in 2014.

The top 25 also enjoyed a 33 per cent gain in net new money, even as net new money fell 6.9 per cent for the industry overall.

"Ultimately, the market leaders have focused aggressively on improving their cost-effectiveness in their operating models in order to weather the storm as best as possible," said Mr Sebastian Dovey, a managing partner at Scorpio Partnership.

"In spite of the tough times currently, the industry still has a positive future. Our high net worth client feedback analysis evidences strong client engagement ratings with their provider experience across the same time period."