Rich investors are feeling guilty about their wealth. A top UBS exec details how the firm is reacting.

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  • UBS clients indicated in a survey that they feel guilty about their wealth during the pandemic. 
  • That’s pushing more to show interest in charitable donations, UBS’s head of US wealth said.
  • It’s a dimension of client sentiment informing the next generation of financial advisors, he said. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If there was any doubt that the world’s richest have successfully weathered the pandemic’s economic wreckage as wealth inequality has grown, results from a new UBS client survey should correct the record.  

“Emerging from the pandemic with their wealth largely intact, investors feel appreciative of what they have — but two-thirds feel guilty about their prosperity,” the Swiss bank said in a report published Wednesday that gauged sentiment among 3,800 investors with at least $1 million in investable assets.

UBS, among the world’s largest wealth managers with $3.1 trillion in invested assets as of March, said 66% of those polled expressed they felt “guilty for being more fortunate than many other people.”

Nearly half of survey respondents said they expect to increase charitable donations because they want to help drive positive change in the world. More than half of business-owner clients, a subset of respondents, said the same. 

These types of revelations and a growing list of requests among a high-net-worth clientele, coupled with a growing preference for sustainable investments, are informing the way their financial advisors work.

UBS’s wealth division and rivals such as Morgan Stanley Wealth Management have looked for ways to be one-stop-shops for wealthy clients and, in turn, keep fees within the firm. They can help wealth clients with a deal through the investment bank, for instance, or turn a customer using workplace financial solutions into a long-term client.

“The advisor of the future is escorting a client through their financial life, not just giving recommendations on what investments to buy herself,” Jason Chandler, the firm’s head of US wealth management, told Insider.

UBS is investing in services that cater directly to clients seeking out more advice around philanthropy, as well as family governance and trust and estate matters, he said. The firm has placed experts who advise on those areas in private wealth-focused offices in some major US cities to help clients with particularly complex financial situations.

That may mean offering guidance on donor-advised funds or setting up mission statements for clients around their philanthropic interests. UBS has a force of around 9,600 advisors, with just over 6,300 based in the US as of March. 

“When it comes to charitable giving, having that impact now and not delaying what it might be in the future — I sense a change,” Chandler said of clients shifting their priorities as a result of the pandemic. 

The firm’s survey, which polled investors across 15 markets, including the US, Italy, France, and Hong Kong, also found the pandemic’s multiple crises have pushed more investors to take an interest in sustainable investing.

UBS found 90% of respondents said they now want to align their investments with their values, and 59%, led by clients in Asia, said they are more interested in sustainable investing than they were before the pandemic.

They are not alone. Bank of America strategists told clients on Tuesday that so far in 2021, nearly $3 of every $10 of global equity inflows have gone to environmental, social, and corporate governance-focused funds, and assets under management in the group of some 1,900 global ESG funds they track doubled to a record $1.4 trillion in one year. 

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