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How UBS Plans to Get an Edge in the HNW Market

By Miriam Rozen March 6, 2019

Jane Schwartzberg, head of strategic client segments at UBS Wealth Management, concedes her title gives a misimpression since she bears, among other responsibilities, the task of helping the wirehouse’s FAs better serve women clients.

“Even though we call it a ‘segment,’ the reality is women are half the world,” Schwartzberg said by way of introduction at a recent press session during which UBS unveiled a global study on high net worth women and how they handle wealth.

The report, based on a survey of 3,652 high net worth women, makes a case for FAs and their clients and prospects to redouble their efforts to make sure that women take control of their wealth and long-term financial planning since so many of them will outlive the men in their lives.

The survey has some unexpected findings:

  • Although 80% percent of the women focus on daily finances, 60% do not engage in investing, insuring, and long-term planning.
  • 76% of widows and divorcees discovered “negative financial surprises” at the termination of their unions.
  • Younger women defer to their male spouses at a higher rate than their elders — 59% of the 20- to 34-year-olds reported they do so, compared to 55% of those 51 and older.

In this era of the #metoo movement, when women’s issues such as sexual harassment dominate headlines, Schwartzberg told her audience that “women’s seat at the financial table is not being given enough attention.”

How can FAs help alleviate the problem? First, by recognizing their collective roles in contributing to it, Schwartzberg said. “We, as an industry, have been part of the problem,” she said, agreeing that FAs often allowed husband-only financial planning sessions.

Kathleen Entwistle, a senior portfolio manager for Entwistle Partners at UBS in Paramus, N.J., also recommended FAs remain mindful of their words, avoiding too much industry jargon that keeps the uninitiated from a deeper understanding of the stakes. Advisors should ask themselves, “What do those words mean?” Entwistle said.

The FAs who joined her on UBS’s panel, who had been invited to speak because of their effectiveness with HNW women clients, shared examples of what they have seen on the front lines that corroborates the new report’s conclusions.

Marielle Schurig, an account vice president with The Samson Group at UBS in New York, described a client who “was incredibly embarrassed” because upon her reckoning with a looming divorce she was so paralyzed she couldn’t even log into her investment accounts.

When UBS issued a previous report based on a survey of U.S.-only high-net-worth women, which showed in large part parallel findings, Wendy Holmes, an FA with Wittenberg Holmes Partners at UBS in New York, said a woman client read it and recognized herself. “She told me, ‘Wendy, I really need to get my [stuff] together,’” Holmes recalled.

Marielle Schurig

The only man on the panel — Vincent Fiorentino, a senior vice president for the Fiorentino Group at UBS in Stamford, Conn. — gave a strong reason why other advisors should pay attention to the results about women. For his team, Fiorentino said, 75% of its top clients are women. Why should women, who often historically received scant attention from FAs when the men in their lives were still around, seek out FA's help now? “Advisors are a second set of eyes,” Fiorentino said.