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HNW investors seek greater role in driving social change
Financial anxiety remains high in Asia-Pacific despite vaccine rollout
7 Jun 2021 | Tom King

Wealthy investors in Singapore concur with their global peers that the pandemic has heightened their appreciation of social issues, and plan to use a portion of their assets to drive change and help in improving the lives of others.

According to the latest Investor Watch survey by Swiss wealth manager UBS, women and younger generations are the most motivated to make a difference through charitable giving. The report surveyed 3,800 investors, with at least US$1 million in investable assets, across 15 markets globally.

In Singapore, where 200 high net worth (HNW) investors participated in the study, 85% say that the pandemic has made them reassess what is most important, higher than the global average of 79%.

Almost seven in 10 Singaporean HNW investors say they are more interested in investing sustainably than they were before the pandemic, higher than the global average of 59%, while 93% of HNW Singaporean investors surveyed want their investments to align with their values, compared to 90% of the investors globally.

One in two Singaporean HNW investors also plan to increase their charitable giving, in line with the global average.

Reassessing goals

From a gender perspective, more women have seen the coronavirus pandemic as a time for reassessing their goals, with 84% saying that they have reassessed their goals during the crisis, compared with 76% of men, while 51% of the women say they also plan to increase charitable giving compared with 42% of men.

The survey also finds that Singapore is in line with the global trend of younger investors turning their more attention to socially relevant investing. Globally, 79% of investors aged 50 and under note that the pandemic has made them want more to make a difference in the world, compared with 51% of investors over 50. Half of this younger demographic also have plans to give more to charitable causes.

Commenting in a recent Deutsche Bank International Private Bank discussion report, the World Wildlife Fund’s senior vice president for sustainable finance in Asia, Anders Nordheim, says a growing amount of research suggests this age group is concerned and cares about environmental, social and environmental (ESG) issues and are prepared to put their money behind those considerations.

“As a result, we will likely see greater demand for both off-the-shelf ESG products and bespoke solutions from wealth managers moving forward. The generational shift will also be important in Asia, especially among family offices whose reins are being passed on to millennials,” Nordheim says.

Financial anxiety

In a separate Covid-related survey from reinsurance giant Swiss Re, one in four respondents in Asia-Pacific say they feel anxious about their financial future, despite the vaccine rollouts. The respondents also rank mental wellbeing as their top health concern.

"It is evident that despite the commencement of vaccine rollouts across the region, the level of financial anxiety remains high, consistent with what we heard when we first conducted this survey at the height of the pandemic," says Russell Higginbotham, chief executive officer for reinsurance at Swiss Re Asia.

"Covid-19 has exposed shortfalls in consumers' insurance protection, where increasing health concerns have translated into strong health insurance premium growth in several markets such as Thailand, Singapore and China," Higginbotham adds. 

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