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UBS tops Asia private banking league for sixth straight year

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UBS Group AG topped the list of the 20 largest wealth firms in Asia for the sixth consecutive year even as assets under management declined in the region, Asian Private Banker said.

[SINGAPORE] UBS Group AG topped the list of the 20 largest wealth firms in Asia for the sixth consecutive year even as assets under management declined in the region, Asian Private Banker said.

While the Zurich-based bank continued to dominate the regional top spot by a wide margin, with assets totaling US$357 billion last year, Credit Suisse Group AG slightly narrowed the gap, the Hong Kong-based publication said on its website. UBS saw assets under management decline about 7 per cent, while Credit Suisse's assets edged up 1.5 per cent to US$205 billion.

UBS wasn't the only firm to find its assets shrinking last year as market turbulence deterred rich clients from deploying their wealth. Across the industry in Asia, assets under management "ground to a halt as challenging market conditions tempered activity and impeded performance," APB said.

Total AUM at the 20 largest private banks in Asia excluding China declined 3.6 per cent to US$1.63 trillion, with just five institutions seeing increases, according to APB. Relationship-manager headcount of these banks totaled 5,555, with expansion at firms including UBS, HSBC Holdings Plc and Bank of Singapore. Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered Plc are among those that saw lower staff numbers, the publication said.

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"The return of volatility after a remarkably calm 2017, a further breakdown in the correlation between stocks and bonds, and the US-China trade dispute conspired to exert pressure on private banks' top lines," APB said. Transaction-based revenues fell at more than half of the top 20, it said.

Citigroup Inc, which held second place in 2017, was dropped from the annual ranking together with DBS Group Holdings Ltd, because the lenders' publicly available numbers included assets of less wealthy clients, according to APB.

The latest survey only included private banks with minimum assets of US$1 million per customer. Those thresholds varied wildly for the firms on the list, from Goldman Sachs Group Inc catering to clients with at least $100 million, followed by Morgan Stanley with US$35 million. At the other end of the spectrum, UBS's minimum was US$2 million and Union Bancaire Privee SA's was only US$1 million.

"DBS offers a range of wealth propositions to our high-net-worth clients, and our view is that the wealth platform they choose to be banked on should not have a bearing on their status," the Singapore-based bank said in an emailed statement. DBS's assets managed for clients with at least S$1.5 million rose 6 per cent to S$152 billion ($112 billion) last year, the bank said in an emailed reply to questions.

Citigroup said it respects APB's editorial decision but is "disappointed that the publication has changed its methodology so it no longer reflects our business model." The US bank's wealth management business "spans the full spectrum of client needs from emerging affluent to ultra-high-net-worth," it said.

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