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'This formula will be successful': How UBS is taking on Brazil’s burgeoning wealth market

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It has been a year since UBS took full ownership of Brazil’s largest multi-family office Consenso and the Swiss wealth management giant has big plans for its business in Brazil, Citywire Brasil reports.

Since UBS first acquired its 60% stake in Consenso back in 2017, the UBS Consenso business has tripled in size, according to the co-CEO of UBS Consenso, Bruno Barino (pictured above). The Swiss group bought the remaining 40% stake in Consenso in April 2021.

UBS Consenso has not disclosed its current assets under management, but market sources told Citywire Brasil that prior to UBS’s arrival on the scene in 2017 Consenso had around 20bn reais to 25bn reais in assets management. This gives us a cautious estimation of over 60bn ($13bn) in assets under management today if we follow Barino’s statement.

Barino said the goal now is to double their assets over the next two years and continue expanding so that UBS becomes as big in Brazil for wealth management as it is in the rest of the world. The Swiss group currently has over $4.6tn in global assets under management and is the world’s biggest wealth management firm.

‘There were three years of transition focusing on integrating the team without losing value. And we kept everything, literally everything. All of our employees who’d worked here for years, as well as our clients,’ said Barino, who runs UBS Consenso alongside fellow co-CEO Luiz Borges, Consenso’s founding partner.

‘We are not UBS and we are not Consensus. We are a third player with the ability to manage on any platform and Consenso’s direct compensation model, with access to UBS products and research. We literally created a boutique within the world’s largest wealth  management.’ 

Barino added: ‘Of course, we gained volume with the [UBS] operation, but the most valuable thing was having another line of business, more focused on wealth planning. First, we stabilized the business and now our objective is to accelerate growth. And in two, three years we want to double in size.’

Behind the desire to grow in Brazil is UBS’s plan to cement its position in Latin America, said Barino.

‘UBS is a leader in Asia, Europe and the Americas. But it cannot be global if it does not have a relevant base in Brazil. A lot of wealth originates here, so it is a key market for them and attracts more and more attention. UBS has strong penetration in Latam ex-Brazil and is top three in the Americas, but only top 10 in Brazil, and this is where 50% of the region’s wealth resides. So, we need to move forward,’ said Barino.

Client focus

In the competitive Brazilian market, UBS Consenso wants to attract the most sophisticated clients with a particular focus on the ultra-high net worth segment – which includes investors with at least 30m reais ($7m) to invest. But the company receives many referrals for clients with smaller books so it set up an operation to also cater to clients who have at least 10m reais, all while providing the same quality of service.

To reach the big players, UBS Consenso believes the key is to make big advisor hires.

‘Last year, we increased our sales force by 50% and we still want to hire more this year and we should grow 20 to 25% compared to last year. We believe that we have a unique remuneration model to attract the best professionals, in which we combine a CLT contract with benefits and a variable remuneration based on performance,’ said Barino.

UBS Consenso co-CEO Borges (pictured above) added: ‘We brought in people from banks, family offices, from various places. But our focus is not client wallets, we are not in this game of stealing clients. We are looking for people to create long-term relationships to provide an individualized service for any account that a client has, as we have always done at Consenso. We first look at the owners of the resources before the resources and we need to find people like that.’

Part of Barino and Borges’ growth strategy is also to expand into new markets across Brazil. Last year, the company recruited people in order to have a presence in the regions of Porto Alegre and Santa Catarina, and the group is now looking at entering regions like Pernambuco and Ceará in the coming months. Having a presence in the Midwest of Brazil is in the pipeline for the next three years. Today, the company has offices in São Paulo, Rio, Curitiba and Belo Horizonte.

With this growth strategy, Barino and Borges believe UBS Consenso is prepared to face the market challenges ahead and will become a reference for Brazil’s most sophisticated investors.

‘Being an independent player was very difficult. Not being part of a global group was a huge loss of competitiveness. We are happy to have achieved a structure that meets the customization that sophisticated clients want and that provides them with the robustness of a global group like UBS. We trust this formula will be successful,’ said Borges. 

Additional editing by Atholl Simpson.