INSIGHTS

Why High Net Worth Individuals Need to Rethink Everything in 2024

By Marianne Tan
Photography by Zulfadli bin Rahman, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
Styling by CK Koo
Grooming by Jace Ang using Estée Lauder
02 Jan 2024

Against headwinds in a highly volatile external environment, an innovative mindset is needed to guide investment decisions. Francis Liu, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore of Swiss private bank Lombard Odier shares insights into the key investment trends for high net worth individuals for the new year.

For high net worth individuals (HNWIs), the highly unpredictable nature of the financial landscape demands nothing less than a similarly unconventional approach to the management and preservation of wealth, particularly when done with future generations in mind.

Francis Liu, Chief Executive Officer, Private Clients Asia and Chief Executive Officer, Singapore of Swiss private bank Lombard Odier believes it’s the mindset of constant innovation that will help investors weather and ride the waves of disruption in the external market environment. It’s also a stance that the company advocates for.

“Lombard Odier’s philosophy is to ‘rethink everything’ – to constantly rethink the world around us to provide a different investment perspective for our clients. Constant innovation is the way forward, and that only by constantly challenging ourselves to be better, to think out of the box, and to strive for excellence, can we provide the best partnership with clients,” he explains.

A veteran private banker, Liu’s own conviction in this philosophy was also what inspired him to join Lombard Odier in 2022 following an illustrious career at UBS Wealth Management in Hong Kong, where he held various senior leadership roles within UBS’ APAC wealth management franchise over the last 12 years.

Most recently, he served as Regional Head of UBS’ APAC Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) business and led the regional UHNW offerings in key Asian markets including Greater China and Southeast Asia. Prior to UBS, Liu worked as a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch Private Wealth Management across Taipei, Singapore, and Hong Kong, where he was Head of the Greater China region.


(Related: Forecast 2024 — Worth the Risk)

  • A SHIFT TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
  • NEXT-GEN MOVES FOR THE GREATER GOOD
  • A PERSONAL TOUCH TO GUIDE CHANGING INVESTMENT STRATEGIES

A SHIFT TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Jacket by Shanghai Tang

Liu says Lombard Odier’s innovative mindset can be traced back as far as the 19th century, when it became an early adopter of sustainable investing – something that he personally resonated with. In 1841, the company warned against investing in southern United States companies reliant on slave labor.

“Way before there was a global focus on sustainability, sustainable investing was already a conviction for Lombard Odier. This set out early our core values and investment principles.”

He adds: “Lombard Odier’s commitment to sustainability and being an early adopter of sustainable investing was something that stood out. Aside from striving to shape and change the world we live in, there is also a strong focus on sustainability research as a financial institution.”

According to Liu, investing in sustainability within the region has “reached a watershed” and that now, more than ever, there is an increased conviction that “sustainability will deliver superior returns over the years”. 

“This has evolved over time, from a change of perspective that investing in sustainability was a values-driven investment to a genuine anticipation of returns,” he says.

More specifically, Lombard Odier’s 2023 APAC HNWIs Study, which surveyed 460 HNWIs across APAC to understand their wealth aspirations and priorities, found that 60.9% of respondents said it is essential or aspirational to invest in sustainability. Even more (77%) agreed that incorporating sustainability factors can help deliver superior returns.

While there remains a gap between aspirations and action at the moment – with only 18.4% respondents agreeing that they “have actively increased or plan to increase the proportion of sustainability investments” – Liu views this as an opportunity in 2024.

“We have been taking opportunities to share convictions and work together with HNWIs to educate them on the necessity of sustainable investing in bringing high performance in the search for green alpha. We believe that increasingly, more assets will be allocated towards sustainable assets in their portfolios.”

  • A SHIFT TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
  • NEXT-GEN MOVES FOR THE GREATER GOOD
  • A PERSONAL TOUCH TO GUIDE CHANGING INVESTMENT STRATEGIES

NEXT-GEN MOVES FOR THE GREATER GOOD

If there were to be a move towards greater investments for good in the near future, Lombard Odier believes the younger generation (those under 45) would be the ones to drive the trend. The HNWIs Study, for example, observed that this group was more prepared to be advocates of impact investing than their older counterparts, with 4% of under 45s saying that sustainability is an essential focus compared with 21.7% of over 45s.

Liu believes this is part of a wider cultural shift, where differing personal goals among the younger generation to align action with personal values over financial considerations affect their investment decisions.

Likewise, these personal values have also shaped their philanthropy approach.

Liu explains: “What we have observed is that the COVID-19 **** gave people a uniquely shared experience of enduring together, transcending cultural, political, social, and economic differences. This has shaped how leading families and entrepreneurs have used their private capital as a force for good over the past years.”

“As the younger generation of HNWIs play a larger role in terms of managing family wealth, how they approach philanthropy is also evolving. They do not want to just sign a cheque – they want to start earlier in life, drive deep impact on issues they care about, especially on social and sustainability issues, and they are also more willing to use a wider range of engagement tools, such as through social enterprises.”

  • A SHIFT TOWARDS A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
  • NEXT-GEN MOVES FOR THE GREATER GOOD
  • A PERSONAL TOUCH TO GUIDE CHANGING INVESTMENT STRATEGIES

A PERSONAL TOUCH TO GUIDE CHANGING INVESTMENT STRATEGIES

Much like how the confluence of external factors like energy disruption and geopolitical conflicts and changing investor mindsets and behaviors have contributed to a volatile investment landscape over the last few years, technological advancements in artificial intelligence and Big Data have also ushered in new frontiers for investment opportunities.

In the realm of wealth management however, Liu believes the physical presence of bankers and advisors will “continue to play a key role in Asia”.

“HNWIs have myriad goals, and attaining these goals are different for each individual. It is the human element of interacting and engaging with clients that will help us better understand our clients and tailor their approaches and strategies to meet these goals.”

“We need to strive to be the best at what we do, especially when delivering excellence in client servicing. In a sea of options, this is how we remain relevant to our clients, and to be the bank of reference for these leading families and entrepreneurs generation after generation.”

Liu relishes these interactions, and regards the time that he spends with his clients to understand their needs – “over a good cup of tea” – as what keeps him going despite ongoing headwinds.

As he endeavors to continue expanding the company’s footprint as a high-end investment firm in Asia, Liu’s work ethos of focusing on innovation, excellence, and integrity will be central to his leadership vision for Lombard Odier.

“We need to strive to be the best at what we do, especially when delivering excellence in client servicing. In a sea of options, this is how we remain relevant to our clients, and to be the bank of reference for these leading families and entrepreneurs generation after generation,” he says.

“It is also my conviction that we need to act with honesty and transparency, because this is the very foundation of trust, and the only way to build long-lasting relationships.”