Review of UBS Wealth Management

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Updated on Wednesday, May 13, 2020

UBS is a massive financial institution with offices in over 50 countries across five continents. UBS Wealth Management USA, also known as UBS Financial Services, is a subsidiary in the United States that offers services including portfolio management, financial planning and retirement plan consulting for businesses.

It has branches and advisors spread throughout most of the U.S., with just under 10,000 employees working in an investment advisory capacity. UBS Wealth Management USA currently has over $591 billion in assets under management (AUM).

All information included in this profile is accurate as of May 13, 2020. For more information, please consult UBS Wealth Management’s website.

Assets under management: $591,360,861,325
Minimum investment: Depends on program — starting at $5,000
Fee structure: A percentage of AUM, up to 2.50%; hourly charges; fixed fees; commissions; other fee types
Headquarters:1000 Harbor Boulevard
Weehawken, NJ 07086
https://www.ubs.com/us/en/wealth-management.html
(201) 352-3000

financial advisor

Overview of UBS Wealth Management

UBS launched more than 150 years ago, when it first operated out of Switzerland as the Bank in Winterthur, which was founded in 1862. From there, it expanded into a global investment bank and wealth management firm with divisions in 50 countries around the world. The firm’s global headquarters is in Zurich, and its wealth management headquarters in the United States is in Weehawken, N.J.

UBS is a publicly traded company on the NYSE, so it is owned by outside shareholders. Its subsidiary UBS Wealth Management USA has 15,605 employees, of which 9,948 perform investment advisory functions. They offer many services on top of wealth management, including retail banking and business consulting.

What types of clients does UBS Wealth Management serve?

UBS Wealth Management serves a large mix of clients. More than half the firm’s AUM comes from working with high net worth individuals, those investing at least $750,000 with their advisor or who have a net worth over $1.5 million. The UBS website notes that it has extensive experience in handling the needs of high net worth and ultrahigh net worth individuals. However, having a high net worth is not a requirement, as UBS works with hundreds of thousands of non-high net worth investors as well.

Additionally, UBS Wealth Management works with pension and profit-sharing plans; charitable organizations; state and municipal government entities; insurance companies; corporations and other businesses; and a few other entities.

UBS Wealth Management does not mention any industry or clients specialties for its services. With so many branches and advisors, chances are the firm’s team can handle a broad mix of needs and does not focus on just one type of client for its asset management programs.

The minimum investment amount needed to work with UBS Wealth Management depends on the program. UBS Wealth Management has a few programs that accept clients with as little as $5,000, but other programs can have investment minimums ranging up to $100,000. Here is the full list of minimum account size requirements for the firm’s different programs:

Discretionary advisory programs:

  • UBS Managed Portfolio Program: $5,000, but can be higher depending on strategy
  • Advisor Allocation Program: $25,000
  • UBS Advice Portfolio Program: $10,000
  • Portfolio Management Program: $25,000

Separately managed account programs and unified managed account programs:

  • ACCESS: $50,000
  • Managed Accounts Consulting (MAC): $100,000 (or manager’s discretion)
  • Strategic Wealth Portfolio (SWP): $100,00

Non-discretionary advisory programs:

  • PACE Select: $10,000
  • PACE Multi: $5,000
  • UBS Strategic Advisor: $25,000 in eligible billable assets

Services offered by UBS Wealth Management

For portfolio management, UBS Wealth Management offers both discretionary advisory programs, where the advisor can make trades on the client’s behalf, as well as non-discretionary advisory programs, where the client must approve all trades. The firm also offers separately managed accounts, where advisors who don’t work for UBS Wealth Management can access and manage a client’s portfolio on a discretionary basis.

Within these categories, UBS Wealth Management has different programs with different goals and account minimum requirements. For example, the firm’s PACE Select non-discretionary program only invests in UBS mutual funds, while the PACE Multi program can invest in both affiliated and unaffiliated funds.

In addition to portfolio management, UBS Wealth Management also offers a range of financial planning services to help clients with tasks like getting ready for retirement and saving up for a college education. Additionally, the firm offers retail banking and brokerage services, as well as retirement plan consulting for businesses.

Here is a full list of services that UBS Wealth Management can provide its clients:

  • Investment advisory services/portfolio management (separately managed and wrap fee accounts; discretionary and non-discretionary)
  • Financial planning
    • Retirement planning
    • Trust and estate planning
    • Charitable planning
    • Education planning
    • Long-term care planning
    • IRA and 401(k) rollovers
  • Insurance/risk management
  • Retirement plan consulting
  • Educational seminars and workshops
  • Newsletters and publications
  • Brokerage services
  • Retail banking

How UBS Wealth Management invests your money

As such a large organization with so many different advisors and programs, UBS Wealth Management doesn’t follow just one type of investment approach or philosophy. Instead, when you first reach out, you will fill out a questionnaire about your investment needs, risk tolerance and investor style.

UBS Wealth Management will use this information to suggest financial advisors who may be a good match, and you can pick the one you like. Your advisor will then come up with a customized portfolio recommendation and decide which of the program types offered best fits your goals. If it turns out you’re looking for a strategy or program that UBS Wealth Management does not offer, the firm can also refer you to trusted advisors outside of the firm to handle your investment needs.

Once you sign on with an advisor, that individual will personally be in charge of supervising your account. However, UBS Wealth Management holds annual performance reviews where they compare your returns against the appropriate benchmarks, to make sure that what the advisor is recommending for your money is appropriate. If an advisor does not perform adequately, they can be replaced.

Fees UBS Wealth Management charges for its services

For portfolio management and investment advisory services, UBS Wealth Management charges clients a wrap fee based on a percentage of assets under management. This fee covers the cost of investment advice, the handling investments through UBS and account reporting. Your rate will depend on which program, advisor and investment strategy you select. You negotiate the rate at the start of your contract.

On top of the asset-based fee, some of the programs charge an additional manager fee paid to your investment advisor. UBS Wealth Management can also earn commissions from completing trades as a broker-dealer or for referring you to third-parties for investment products. Finally, if your advisor recommends investments that are not covered by the wrap fee, like trades with another broker-dealer, you would need to cover these costs.

If you hire UBS Wealth Management to put together a financial plan, you will typically pay a fixed fee. It can cost between $500 to $50,000 to develop your financial plan, though the firm’s brochure states that most clients pay between $1,000 to $10,000. In addition, you’d need to cover the fees that come with launching your plan, like for account transfers, investments and trusts.

Fee Schedule for Discretionary Advisory Programs
ProgramsAsset-Based Fee
UBS Managed Portfolio ProgramUp to 2.50%
Advisor Allocation ProgramUp to 2.50%; possibly also a manager’s fee (0.10% to 0.75% for equity and blended portfolios and 0.10% to 0.60% for fixed income)
UBS Advice Portfolio ProgramUp to 1.25%
Portfolio Management ProgramUp to 2.50%

Fee Schedule for Separately Managed Account and Unified Managed Account Programs
ProgramsAsset-Based Fee
ACCESSUp to 2.50%; possibly also a manager’s fee (0.10% to 0.75% for equity and blended portfolios or 0.10% to 0.60% for fixed income)
Managed Accounts Consulting (MAC)Up to 2.50%; possibly also manager’s fee negotiated ahead of time
Strategic Wealth Portfolio (SWP)Up to 2.50%; possibly also a manager’s fee (0.10% to 0.75% for equity and blended portfolios and 0.10% to 0.60% for fixed income)

Fee Schedule for Non-Discretionary Advisory Programs
ProgramsAsset-Based Fee
PACE SelectUp to 2.50%
PACE MultiUp to 2.50%
UBS Strategic AdvisorUp to 2.50%

UBS Wealth Management’s highlights

  • Wide selection of portfolio management programs: For portfolio management, UBS Wealth Management not only offers a choice between discretionary, non-discretionary and separately managed services, the firm breaks it down even further with different programs to match a client’s investment goals and account size.
  • Tracks down good matches for advisors: When a client first joins the firm, they fill out a questionnaire explaining their investment goals. UBS Wealth Management uses this information to recommend a good advisor match, even if that advisor is at another organization.
  • Offers many services on top of investment advice: Besides portfolio management, UBS Wealth Management also offers financial planning, broker-dealer trading, retail banking and retirement plan consulting.
  • Low minimum account sizes: It’s not a requirement to be a high net worth investor to work with UBS Wealth Management. You can access some of the firm’s programs with a minimum investment of just $5,000.
  • Award-winning performance: UBS Wealth Management has won a number of awards, including recently being named Top Wealth Manager in the World by Wealthmanagement.com and Best Bank for Wealth Management in North America by Euromoney. In addition, many UBS financial advisors have been recognized as being top advisors by Barron’s.

UBS Wealth Management’s downsides

  • High potential fees: UBS Wealth Management’s asset-based fee rate can go all the way up to 2.50%, and the advisor can charge an additional manager fee on top of that. This is extremely high, even for small accounts. The median fee for portfolios below $250,000 is nearly 1.25%, according to Kitces, a blog for financial advisors. While UBS Wealth Management is just listing its potential maximum rate and you could end up paying a lower rate, the firm’s high potential ceiling is a concern, especially since it doesn’t publish a set fee schedule for you to determine how much you’ll pay before entering into discussions with the firm.
  • Choices can be overwhelming: Navigating all of the different programs at UBS Wealth Management and telling them apart is difficult, even for someone with financial experience. It may be hard to figure out what to pick by yourself.
  • Possible incentive to push UBS products: Since UBS also offers banking, mutual funds and other services, advisors may have an incentive to recommend these products and services. UBS Wealth Management also earns commissions from processing trades and recommending investments at other organizations, which creates a financial incentive to make certain recommendations, posing a potential conflict of interest.
  • Lack of personal attention from a top investor: At smaller boutique RIAs, you might get portfolio recommendations from the leaders of the firm, including famous investors at some organizations. But at UBS Wealth Management, you’re mainly getting input from your one advisor. While the firm checks in on your performance once a year, you likely won’t get the same level input that you might get at a smaller organization.
  • Has disciplinary disclosures: Though not uncommon for many massive financial firms, UBS Wealth Management does have disciplinary disclosures. See more below.

UBS Wealth Management disciplinary disclosures

When an RIA registers with the SEC, it is required to disclose disciplinary actions taken against the firm and its investment advisors and affiliates on its Form ADV, paperwork that registered firms must file with the SEC. Disclosable offenses include civil judgments, criminal cases and regulatory fines from within the past 10 years.

Since 2010, UBS Wealth Management has had 15 issues that it needed to disclose. The most expensive fine happened in December 2012, when regulatory agencies in the United States and Europe investigated UBS for manipulating LIBOR and other benchmark interest rates for its trades. UBS agreed to pay more than $1.5 billion in fines to the various agencies.

In 2011, UBS Wealth Management had to pay close to $150 million in fines to federal and state regulatory agencies for allegations surrounding the mishandling of municipal reinvestment and derivative trades during 2001 to 2006.

Over the years, UBS Wealth Management has faced several multimillion-dollar fines related to allegations about not properly disclosing trading information, not registering with the proper authorities and not having the right price procedures in place for some products.

Additionally, the firm has incurred several fines due to its relationship with Lehman Brothers, as UBS allegedly failed to disclose risks about Lehman products to its investors. Finally, UBS Wealth Management has run into several small, six-figure fines due to improper actions from certain advisors, such as allegations that they did not handle transactions properly or weren’t adequately supervised.

UBS Wealth Management onboarding process

If you’d like to work with UBS Wealth Management, the first step is to find a local advisor or branch. On the firm’s website, you can enter in your ZIP code, and it will tell you the nearest locations. Another option is to fill out a brief form, providing your name, contact information, portfolio size (less than or more than $250,000) and some information on what you need help with. UBS Wealth Management will use this information to find nearby advisors, and you’ll then fill out the new client questionnaire so the firm can help you pick the best advisor match, based on your goals.

During the first meeting with an advisor, they will get to know your financial goals, risk tolerance and timeline. From there, they will consider which of the UBS Wealth Management programs is the best fit and come up with a strategy for your portfolio. At this point, your advisor will also set the asset-based fee and manager’s fee, if applicable. If you’re happy with the terms, you can then approve the contract to launch your new portfolio.

The individual advisor will be in charge of keeping in touch with you and managing your portfolio. Once a year though, UBS Wealth Management will check in on your portfolio’s performance and make sure the advisor is doing a good job, by comparing their portfolio recommendation against the appropriate market benchmarks.

Is UBS Wealth Management right for you?

UBS Wealth Management is a large, global financial institution, which has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your goals. If you’re looking for lots of investment choices and a place that can handle all your financial needs, UBS Wealth Management may be a great fit. The firm offers all kinds of different investment programs as well as financial planning, retail banking and retirement plan consulting. It’s also nice that you can use some of its programs with a minimum investment as low as $5,000, making the firm accessible to all levels of investors.

But the firm’s size does have downsides. It can feel overwhelming navigating all of the different programs, and you won’t get personalized attention from senior management, like you might at a boutique RIA. In addition, UBS Wealth Management’s fees can potentially be very high.

A lot depends on whether you get along with the local advisor you’re matched with, since they design the portfolio and negotiate the fees. If you’d like more information on UBS Wealth Management, it may be worth setting that initial meeting so you can ask questions and see whether there’s a personality fit and take it from there.

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