UBS Wealth Management will record WhatsApp and WeChat conversations between its Asian clients and their advisors, as high net worth individuals shift create compliance headaches by moving onto public messenger platforms.
There are 805 million users of mobile chat apps in Asia-Pacific, according to the consultancy eMarketer, and they have passed beyond personal use to become a major channel for people to interact with businesses.
‘It’s becoming the norm to talk with any supplier in the market who can offer you a chat-based solution,’ Ketan Samani, chief digital officer at UBS Wealth Management Asia-Pacific. ‘From a consumer perspective, it’s a natural thing to do for them to talk to their client advisors using their mobile numbers… with a personal conversation that expands into a business discussion.’
The problem for wealth managers comes if that business discussion results in the client taking some kind of investment decision.
‘If the client takes that [conversation] as advice, and something goes wrong, we have no record of that advice.’
Regulations prohibit WMs to offer advice through any channel that they cannot record. This was difficult for messenger apps, which allow users to skip between devices, and to delete parts of their conversations. UBS has worked with a Singapore-based vendor, FinChat Technology, to record chats as they occur, as they could on a dealer board.
‘When the chat takes place, in real time, the recording takes place… on the device you can delete anything you like, but we can play it back.’
Although messenger apps are most closely associated with Millennials, Asian HNWIs of all ages are wedded to their mobile devices and expect their advisors to keep up. Research from consultancy PWC last year found that 69% of HNWIs use online banking, but only a quarter of wealth managers offered digital channels to communicate, beyond email.
Samani said that ‘99%’ of the WM’s clients in Asia had more than one mobile phone, and regardless of age were using WeChat, WhatsApp or other apps. ‘Chat is part of everybody’s lifestyle at the moment,’ he said.