UOB sees 406% jump in sales of online investment products

Amid Covid-19’s social distancing and circuit breaker measures, United Overseas Bank (UOB) has seen a spike in demand for its online investment products, with the number of such purchases jumping 406 per cent in the first quarter of this year from a year ago.

The strongest demand has been for gold and unit trust products as investors seek defensive and diversified assets, the bank said in a media release today.

Gold purchases made via the bank’s digital services grew more than 20 times in March compared with the year before. Digital applications for unit trusts also reached a record for the bank in the same month. Customers can buy gold and silver savings on UOB’s Personal Internet Banking (PIB) platform and UOB Mighty app. They can also purchase gold bars and gold bullion coins as well as unit trusts directly through UOB’s PIB service.

UOB said its wealth advisory team has stepped up its support to customers looking to protect their investments amid Covid-19 uncertainty. For one thing, advisers have been proactively calling wealth banking and privilege banking clients to review their investment portfolios.

Since mid-March, the bank has seen a 70 per cent increase in portfolio reviews, compared with those completed between January and mid-March.

Said Ms Jacquelyn Tan, UOB’s head of personal financial services, Singapore: “At a time when wealth advisers around the world are reacting to calls from worried clients, we are instead engaging our managed clients proactively to address their questions and concerns and to help them on their investments.

“As part of our discussions, we take clients through possible market scenarios and the long-term implication of the downturn on their investments.”

To keep customers informed on risks and opportunities, given uncertain and volatile market conditions, UOB has also increased the investment insight reports it provides to clients. The reports contain information such as the bank’s views on future market moves and recommended investment strategies.

In March and last month, six videos and written reports providing advice from UOB’s investment advisory team were sent to clients addressing investment opportunities amid the outbreak.

UOB said its Covid-19-related video updates have attracted nearly four times the usual view rate of the bank’s previous videos.

This spike in interest in investment information is also reflected in Google Trends data which shows searches on investing in Singapore jumped 67 per cent year on year in March and last month, said the bank.

It is also using technology to help customers navigate the challenges of investing in uncertain times, such as its proprietary Portfolio Advisory Tools (PAT), which draws on more than 12 years of historical market data to simulate the expected performance of an investment portfolio against various economic scenarios.

As market conditions continue to fluctuate due to Covid-19, the tool helps advisers project how market changes are affecting future outcomes, said UOB. It added that one in three potential clients who receive advice through PAT have signed on as wealth clients.

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DBS and UOB closing some branches till May 4

DBS Bank and United Overseas Bank (UOB) have joined OCBC Bank to temporarily close some of their bank branches till May 4 during the month-long imposition of tighter curbs to reduce the community spread of the coronavirus.

While banks are essential services that will stay open during this “circuit breaker” period, lenders are shutting a significant number of branches in anticipation of fewer customer visits and to look out for staff welfare.

The authorities in Singapore have said all financial markets here will remain open and that payment services are unaffected. The branches that stay open must be well distributed across the country to adequately meet customers’ needs. ATM services must also remain available.

DBS said on Monday that it will progressively close 29 DBS/POSB branches islandwide. Its Marina Bay Sands branch was the first to shut yesterday, followed by its Newton, Square 2, Tampines East, White Sands, Jurong Point and Tanjong Pagar branches tomorrow.

Branches that will be closed next Monday are at Ngee Ann City, Woodlands West, Tampines One, Marine Parade, Seletar Mall, Alexandra, Holland Village and Raffles Link.

The remaining 14 affected branches that will close next Tuesday are at Bishan, Raffles Place, South Bridge, Suntec City, Centrepoint, Yishun West, Bedok, Serangoon Garden, Compass One, Eastpoint, Westgate, Bukit Panjang, Jurong West and Yew Tee.

That leaves 28 of the bank’s branches that will stay open with regular banking hours. For branches that remain open, the first hour of operations will be dedicated to the vulnerable group of customers from tomorrow, said the lender. This group comprises the elderly (aged 60 and older), pregnant women and customers with disabilities. The bank’s SMS Q service will not be available during this hour.

“In line with the stricter government guidelines to keep Singaporeans safe, we have sought to strike a balance between meeting customers’ needs and doing our part to safeguard the well-being of both branch staff and the public,” said a DBS spokesman.

Yesterday, UOB said it will close 24 branches from Saturday. For these, UOB said it will ensure the nearest open branch is within a 3km radius.

The 38 branches that will stay open are keeping to the usual operating hours and mostly located near other essential services such as grocery stores and food and beverage outlets. Customers can go to UOB’s website for details.

STRIKING A BALANCE

In line with the stricter government guidelines to keep Singaporeans safe, we have sought to strike a balance between meeting customers’ needs and doing our part to safeguard the well-being of both branch staff and the public. ”

A DBS SPOKESMAN

UOB has also dedicated the first operating hour at its branches to serving elderly and vulnerable customers.

Both banks urged customers to use their digital services for their banking needs within the safety and comfort of their homes.

OCBC last Friday said it will close 22 of its branches from tomorrow to May 4. With that, 24 branches remain open, including all 19 that offer banking services on Sundays.

Maybank, HSBC, Citi and Standard Chartered (StanChart) have also announced plans to temporarily shut selected branches in Singapore from tomorrow to May 4.

Maybank said yesterday that it will temporarily close eight branches. Six, which will be shut from tomorrow, are located at Holland Village, Jurong East, Tampines, Waterway Point, Yishun and Orchard Shopping Centre. Two other branches, at Textile Centre and Woodlands 888, will be closed from next Wednesday.

StanChart on Monday said it will close half of its 16 branches in Singapore, which are located at Bedok, Clementi, Jurong Point, Marina Bay, Ngee Ann City International Banking Priority Private Banking Centre, Sixth Avenue, Takashimaya and Tampines.

HSBC said last Saturday that it will temporarily close seven of its 13 branches islandwide. The affected branches are at Hillview, Alexandra, Tampines, Suntec City, Holland Village, Jewel Changi Airport and Collyer Quay.

Citibank Singapore will close four branches at Asia Square, Woodlands, Holland Village and Punggol. This comes on top of four Instant Banking Centres – located at Bugis, Boon Lay, Tampines and Changi Business Park – that have been temporarily closed since March 27.

THE BUSINESS TIMES

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