The lack of US university demand for Arabic linguists has proved to be academia’s loss and financial services’ gain.
A former lecturer in near-Eastern languages, Jamie Broderick’s teaching days are well behind him. As UBS’s head of wealth management in the UK and Jersey, he is now focusing his mind on finding additional avenues for organic growth for the business.
It may not be as headline-making as some of the more exciting M&A activity happening in the industry he says, but perhaps surprisingly for such a well-known bank, believes it can attract many more clients purely by getting its message across more clearly.
‘I think we are a very capable wealth manager and our natural penetration of the UK is a multiple of where we are today. I don’t need a new initiative, acquisition or anything else. What I need is for us to communicate what UBS is capable of to the UK audience,’ says Broderick.
He believes the bank’s wealth management services are not well known enough among its UK target demographic. Some people who do know the brand assume that it is only open to ultra-high net worth individuals, when in reality, half of UBS’s global business comes from high net worth clients, he says, although this figure is slightly lower in the UK.
‘People pigeonhole us as ultra,’ he says. ‘When we arrive in the market asking people what they know about UBS, high net worth clients have trouble relating to us.’
He admits that given the level of service the bank provides, in practical terms, clients do need to be of a certain size. To be cost-effective for both parties, this would typically be £2 million plus of investable assets.
Although an acquisition would be one way to fast-track growth – and the management team have a ‘never say never’ attitude to the idea – Broderick finds it difficult to imagine a scenario where an acquired business could be comfortably integrated into UBS. He says that such deals can end up causing more problems than they solve.
‘It is down to your value proposition. The industry hasn’t been that strict about demanding a value proposition. It is not being large or small, it is people who have a value proposition,’ he says.
‘The consolidation and disposals in the industry that you are seeing is people deciding they don’t have a value proposition. Therefore they need to decide what to focus on. Scale is a consideration obviously – for some people certain businesses are just too small.
‘I think the cultural fit is one of the biggest drivers of acquisition success and failure. They would have to be so close to UBS for the integration to be successful. Organic is much more interesting to us.’
This does not mean that the Swiss giant does not have ambitious growth plans though, and one element Broderick intends to build on is its regional presence.
In his opinion, being a global bank with regional offices across the UK gives it an advantage, as it is not a widespread business model.
‘It is an advantage for us to bring global capability directly to people. It creates intimacy with the clients.’
UBS has offices in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as Jersey.
The next target is the South West, Broderick reveals.
‘We are trying to figure out if we set up a space in the South West, where that would be. We cover it from London and we can really see the difference between what it’s like to cover a region from London versus what it’s like to cover it from the region itself.
‘When that happens, it will help our business penetration’
Broderick particularly finds the regions interesting as they provide access to vibrant entrepreneurial cultures.
‘A lot of entrepreneurial activity occurs outside of London. It’s happening in places like Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester,’ he says.
‘That’s where businesses are being started and you really do have to be there. With entrepreneurs, intimacy is even more important because you actually have to be there when their liquidity events occur. Really, you have to be there even before it occurs, which means you have to be proximate to make that connection.’
This idea of building relationships ties in with his reasons for joining UBS Wealth three years ago. Broderick started working at UBS in January 2013, joining from JP Morgan, where he was the CEO of its European asset management business.
He says that although both business are owned by large banks, his experience of working at the two companies has differed greatly. JP Morgan’s asset management business brought in only a small portion of the revenue and profits. However, at UBS, wealth management is the core business.
He views his exit from JP Morgan, after a 19-year stint, as a move from being at the client end of a product business into a pure client business.
‘Once you have open architecture, the product becomes commoditised, whereas the client experience is never commoditised. It is a rich experience.’
So how does a man who developed an Arabic program for one of the leading international relations schools in the US end up as the CEO of the UK wealth management arm in one of the world’s biggest banks?
Unfortunately, there is not a huge demand for Arabic linguists in academia, he says. After studying Near Eastern languages and civilisations at Harvard University and later the University of Chicago, Broderick began working on his PhD. Soon after, he realised that across the country there was only one new opening a year for Arabic linguists.
This prompted him to leave academia for the asset management industry, joining Wellington Management
He admits that he would never have entered the world of business, if those who hired him at Wellington did not look past the standard mainstream profile.
This approach is something Broderick also looks to apply when hiring new talent for UBS.
‘We are trying to add people, but it’s not so much hiring rainmakers, more how do you bring people through an organisation. Hiring at more junior levels and making sure they can move up within the business,’ he says.
‘When you do too much hiring from outside you can end up capping people’s production. We do both, but I also pay attention to hiring at junior levels, because that’s where we get lifelong UBS talent.
‘Since joining UBS, it has been largely about execution.
‘My job has been focusing on developing people, ensuring they are performing at the high end of their capability, and the quality of their leadership; less exotic than big sweeps and organisational change, but I think it is what the business calls for.’
Similarly, he emphasises the importance of developing technology to constantly build and improve UBS’s wealth management proposition in the UK.
The bank is exploring ways to bring new technology into the client experience, with developmental work being carried out in Switzerland.
Broderick views technology as an enabler for clients of all sizes, rather than just a smart way of accessing the affluent market.
‘All of our clients want improved access. I don’t think about it as a way to get to the affluent,’ he says.
‘It’s really all our clients who are looking for multiple access points, further information and further advice.’
One digital service that has been available to the bank’s clients in Switzerland, UBS Advice, is set to be launched in the UK.
This analyses hundreds of thousands of portfolios every night, running them against market events, and filtering out instances when the portfolio is out of line with the client’s risk profile.
The service then sends an alert to the client’s smart phone. They then have the option either to make a trade directly on the phone to get it back in line, or call a client adviser to discuss the position.
The rollout is one of many that are expected over the coming years as technology plays an ever more integral part in all of our lives.