UBS to launch venture capital fund to boost digitisation

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS at its Zurich headquarters in Switzerland, July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

UBS Group AG is setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars of its own money to invest in fintech companies, joining peers in financing startups that are upending traditional banking.

The Swiss wealth manager is planning a corporate venture capital fund to make investments between $10 million and $20 million in dozens of companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. UBS plans to hold the stakes for at least five years, the person said, asking for anonymity because details haven’t been finalized.

A UBS spokeswoman confirmed the bank is starting such a fund, while declining to comment on specifics.

The venture fund comes just months after UBS named ING Groep NV’s Ralph Hamers, an outspoken champion of digital banking, to succeed Sergio Ermotti as chief executive officer from October. While wealth management — UBS’s biggest business — is traditionally a high-touch operation, with clients valuing personal contact, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a shift toward digital services.

“UBS wants to further engage with and support fintech firms,” said Mike Dargan, UBS’s Global Head Group Technology. “The new venture investment portfolio is a next step to accelerate our innovation and digitization efforts.”

The new fund will look at three broad categories to invest in: client engagement, investing and financing platforms, and improving underlying operations of the bank. While it is already screening potential investments, the bank is still in the process of hiring a team dedicated to run the fund, the people said.

More digital tools are a key part of a revamp plan for UBS’s wealth unit unveiled earlier this year. The bank wants to use them to save time on administrative tasks and cut costs, as competition for rich clients and a flight to cheaper, passive investment products erode profitability.

Globally, U.S. banks have been at the forefront of spending on fintech, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. The firms are generally more profitable and can afford to plow large sums into such efforts. UBS’s Zurich rival Credit Suisse Group AG invests in fintech through its entrepreneur capital arm.

UBS is also looking to use technology to make inroads in the Chinese wealth market. The bank is in the process of acquiring a digital fund distribution license, which would provide a plain-vanilla fund offering to rich Chinese customers. Over time, UBS plans to use such a digital license to move into advisory and on-boarding of new wealth clients, according to Edmund Koh, UBS’s head for the Asia Pacific region.

A previous effort by UBS in this area flopped. A 2017 internal project in the U.K. called SmartWealth was shut down a year later.

Bloomberg

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.