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Geopolitical risks top concern for global family offices, UBS survey shows

Manhattan skyline from Summit at One Vanderbilt Observatory in New York

By Xie Yu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A major geopolitical conflict is the top risk for global family offices in both the near- and medium-term, while North America and Asia Pacific are set to become the top destinations for fresh asset allocations, a recent UBS survey found.

Among global peers, North Asian family offices are mostly concerned about geopolitical risks, the survey showed, with 70% of them rating these factors as a top risk over the next five years, compared with 62% by global family offices.

The survey is based on responses from 320 single-family offices across the world, with an average net worth of $2.6 billion, released in the form of 2024 Global Family Office Report, by UBS on Wednesday.

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Family offices worldwide control some $10 trillion in assets, according to data from London Business School, and are becoming an increasingly important investment force.

Facing challenges including geopolitical risks and climate change, Asia Pacific families are relying more on active wealth management solutions, with big exposures to alternative investments into private equity and hedge funds, and tilting portfolios towards more defensive geographies, the report said.

"Almost half of APAC family offices plan to allocate more assets to APAC over the next five years, with APAC set to be the top investment hotspot globally," said L H Koh, head of UBS global family institutional wealth APAC.

Family offices worldwide have kept their largest regional allocations in North America, the survey found.

Looking ahead, more than a third of them plan to increase allocations to North America and Asia Pacific in the next five years, making the duo top two investment destinations, followed by west Europe and Greater China, the survey found.

Family offices held their highest weightings in developed market equities in 2023, while allocations to developed market bonds increased by the largest amount seen in five years.

Allocations to private equity firms were stable and real estate investments dropped.

Over the next five years, almost half of them anticipate raising their developed market equity allocations, and more than a third plan to add to private equity investments and developed markets fixed income.

More than a quarter of family offices plan to cut cash allocations, the survey found.

(Reporting by Xie Yu; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)