Swiss-based bank UBS has moved to establish a regional family services unit to cater to the needs of its ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients predominantly based in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The unit bundles family advisory services, philanthropy, wealth planning and global custody. It will be headed by Yan Lau, who has worked as a tax consultant at Price Waterhouse previously.

Lau also headed North Asia fiduciary services at Standard Chartered before joining UBS in 1991; most recently he was cluster head in UBS's UHNW team.

He reports locally to Amy Lo, the recently promoted head of UHNW for Asia-Pacific, and Mario Marconi, global head of family services.

Lo notes that UBS has provided many of the services its new family unit offers on an individual basis, but opted to introduce a one-stop shop in Asia to coordinate internal resources and provide a holistic solution under one roof. The bank has a similar unit based in Zurich.

“The situations of UHNW clients are often quite complex and typically they have businesses across the region,” says Lo. “We want to do everything we can to help them develop their business, and monetise and divest their interests.

“The most important issue is the need to protect the family’s wealth. We have also noticed an increasing focus on the issue of legacy. We want to help make sure the proper structure is in place for the control, management and transfer of wealth from one generation to the next. We plan to use our family services unit to put together this kind of holistic solution.”

Lo says the unit will comprise about 15 staff with expertise in wealth planning, philanthropy, global custody and family services. “We are still hiring these kinds of professionals in the region, and will add more over time,” adds Lo.

She believes UBS’s integrated bank capabilities are an advantage when it comes to serving clients via its family services unit. “The investment services alone can be commoditised. We want to differentiate ourselves by providing proactive and timely investment advice, while at the same time offering non-investment advisory services. You can only do that when you have a sizeable and scalable kind of business.”

Lo was named head of UHNW for Asia-Pacific last year but officially only took up the role this month. She takes over from vice-chairman of wealth management Carlo Grigioni, who had taken on the duties in 2009 following the departure of former incumbent Tee Fong Seng to Credit Suisse. Grigioni will now focus on key client relationships in the region.

Lo had been UBS’s regional market manager for Hong Kong and head of UHNW Hong Kong. This position is now being taken on by co-heads Francis Liu, former Greater China head for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who joined UBS late last year, and Jean Claude Humair, who was most recently UBS’s head of wealth management for Japan. Both report to Allen Lo, who at the start of this year became CEO of wealth management for Hong Kong.