Swiss private lender UBP says Hong Kong’s family office incentives are attracting interest from wealthy mainland Chinese, overseas clients

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  • The Geneva-headquartered bank has hired 10 senior bankers to tap wealthy clients in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian markets for the setting up of family offices in the city
  • UBP’s wealthy family clients in China and Asia want to know more about the incentives, a trend that will ‘give further strength to Hong Kong as a family office hub in Asia’, bank’s Hong Kong CEO says

Hong Kong’s newly launched tax incentives and resumption of investment migration schemes are set to boost the city’s family office hub ambitions, according to the head of Swiss private lender Union Bancaire Privee (UBP) in Hong Kong.

The Geneva-headquartered bank expanded its team in Hong Kong in the first half of this year. It has hired 10 senior bankers to tap wealthy clients in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian markets for the setting up of family offices in the city, said Ivan Wong Wai-kee, regional head of North Asia and CEO of Hong Kong at UBP.

“After the Hong Kong government introduced the tax incentives and resumed the investment migration schemes for family offices, we have found more mainland and overseas wealthy investors expressing an interest in establishing family offices in Hong Kong,” he said in an interview with the Post.

Hong Kong’s government in March unveiled several measures to entice billionaires to set up family offices – corporations set up to pursue investment, philanthropy and succession planning – in the city. A refreshed investment migration programme, tax breaks and art storage facilities, among other measures, have been introduced with the aim of achieving Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s target of attracting 200 new family offices to Hong Kong by 2025

“These government measures have created many talking points among our wealthy family clients in China and Asia,” Wong said. “Many of them want to know more about the tax incentives and investment migration schemes, a trend that is set to give further strength to Hong Kong as a family office hub in Asia.

“Hong Kong is an ideal place for wealthy families in the Greater Bay Area to manage their wealth. Clients living in the Greater Bay Area only need about an hour of travel time to come to Hong Kong, while the city also speaks the same language and shares a common culture.”

UBP joins the likes of Citigroup, Zurich-based private bank EFG International, wealth management firm Janus Henderson and the Bank of Singapore in expressing interest in expanding in Hong Kong to capture growing opportunities in the family office segment.

The lender, which had about 140 billion Swiss francs (US$157 billion) in assets under management as of the end of June, is also a family business.

Founded in 1969 by Edgar de Picciotto, UBP has been managed by his son, Guy de Picciotto, for more than 25 years. The bank focuses on wealth management and asset management, and likes to use a combined approach of organic growth as well as mergers and acquisitions to expand its business.

The acquisition in 2015 of the international business of 300-year-old British wealth manager Coutts from Royal Bank of Scotland allowed UBP to expand its Asia and Middle East footprint.

Wong said both Hong Kong and Singapore are important to UBP in its Asia business. “Naturally, we use Singapore to provide services to clients in Southeast Asia, while Hong Kong is the hub for mainland China and North Asia,” he said.

Growth in the number of family offices in Hong Kong will help boost capital market activities in the city, said Gordon Tsui Luen-on, director of industry body the Hong Kong Securities Association.

“Family offices are set up by wealthy people who need to invest their money,” Tsui said. “Setting up more family offices in Hong Kong will encourage them to use the city to invest in different products and stocks.

“Singapore has been very aggressive in developing their family offices, and Hong Kong needs to work harder to catch up.”

Image by: Jonathan Wong

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