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Executive Q&A Chris Marsh, UBS Financial Services

Chris Marsh

Wealth management has always been about more than simply getting a client to a specific number. But today, more than ever, advisers are looking to help investors align their financial decisions with their values, said UBS Financial Services’ Chris Marsh,

Marsh, a managing director and the head of UBS’ San Diego office, has been with the financial firm for 18 years. Today, he manages teams of advisers in Rancho Bernardo, downtown San Diego, Carmel Valley and La Jolla.

Marsh recently spoke with the San Diego Business Journal about UBS Wealth Management Americas latest quarterly Investor Watch survey of more than 2,000 affluent and high-net-worth investors, titled “Retiring Old Clichés.”

Among other findings, the survey revealed that emotional concerns were causing more anxiety than financial worries for investors considering retirement. Marsh discussed his experience with San Diego investors in the context of retirement, the nature of which is changing as life expectancy increases, second careers become more common and philanthropy continues to be an essential element of financial planning.

Here is part of the interview, which has been edited for clarity:

Q: Responses to the survey revealed two-thirds of wealthy pre-retirees are focused on reaching a certain asset level instead of a specific age before retiring. In your experience, how are local investors thinking about what it will take?

A: As you saw in the Investor Watch (report), there’s a lot of discussion around: “Is there a single number, a magic number for retirement?” I think you see across the board, especially here in San Diego, people who are defined by so much more than just a number. Specifically in San Diego, I’m continuously amazed by the interest in maybe stepping out of whatever that business was or that role they were playing, and thinking about how they define or broaden their identity in that next phase of their life, not simply “retiring” and heading off to a golf course.

Q: According to the report, 84 percent of wealthy investors are happier than ever in retirement, reaching peak satisfaction in their sixties and seventies. How is this impacting San Diego?

A: My experience here in San Diego is a lot of that is driven by having put one phase of their life behind them and really focusing on how they run forward, rather than running from something. That’s spawning innovation and its spawning philanthropy in a big way.

Another key point is the importance of really thinking about the fears in retirement, and how to get ones’ hands around those fears so you’re not constrained by them. The fact that less than 50 percent of those we surveyed feel confident and secure about their health care needs and long-term care planning in retirement says a lot. The simple reality is too few people have a game plan that they’ve thought through.

Q: UBS advisers talk with clients about their liquidity, longevity and legacy. Talk a bit about that third aspect.

A: Legacy is something that seems like a really big word, and people tend to say: “Is that what happens after I’m gone?” In some definitions, yes. But the best definitions that I see many of our families really embracing is we’re crafting a legacy every single day. Sometimes we’re literally even hosting the family meeting and helping to shape those conversations about how, across generations, a family can think about its legacy. So philanthropy plays a role in that for sure.

Q: How is interest in philanthropy shaping legacies locally?

A: I sense here in San Diego a very high proportion — a disproportionately high number — of our client relationships looking for a higher purpose. Philanthropy is, statistically, a very important piece of San Diego. Charity Navigator (this year) named San Diego as the top community for philanthropy around the nation.

That reinforces what I observe very well. That higher purpose definitely plays out in how people see their wealth and what their wealth can enable them to accomplish, and that’s both pre-retiree as well as encouraging people to think about where they want to spend more time after retirement.


Q: With lifespans increasing, how is the meaning of retirement changing for wealthy investors?

A: In days gone by, one tended to look at retirement as sort of a switch. Someone is giving me a really nice clock that’s going to go on my mantel after 20 or 25 years of service. Now that phase is done.

We’re seeing in San Diego multiple people who may have worked with large companies for many years and are hanging up the cleats from that, but joining things like UCSD’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program …where they become a sounding board for those who are going to follow them. They can really help shape the successes of others.

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