UBS Hong Kong Open Q&A
HK Golfer meets the Hong Kong Open’s leading lady – Kathryn Shih, CEO of UBS Wealth Management, Asia Pacific
ith the announcement that Europe's Ryder Cup heroes – Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and captain Colin Montgomerie – will star in the 2010 edition do you see this year's field as one of the strongest in the event's history – and what do you admire about those three players in particular? We are delighted to host such a strong contingent from Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team at this year’s UBS Hong Kong Open. Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Colin Montgomerie are marquee names in the golfing world and will be a powerful draw for the event. The field this year is one of the strongest we have assembled but, with some many great players having made their mark at Fanling over the past 50 years, any attempt to make a comparison against historical fields is likely to prompt fierce debate. However, I am confident that in light of the high calibre of the field, we can expect the on-course action to be as good as in any previous year. As with all professional golfers, I admire Rory, Graeme and Colin’s ability to perform competitively under immense pressure but at the same time maintain their respect for the traditions of the game.
UBS has sponsored the Hong Kong Open for the past five editions – but the original sponsorship agreement ended last year. Was renewing UBS's commitment to the championship an easy decision in light of the economic downturn of the past two years? UBS conducts extensive research on the impact of all of its sponsorship programs. Over the period of our sponsorship of the UBS Hong Kong Open, the tournament has helped developed significant brand familiarity and favourability for UBS among the public in Hong Kong and beyond. The tournament has also resonated strongly with our clients and employees. However, during the period, UBS had reported substantial losses so we were under a fiduciary obligation to review the sponsorship, notwithstanding the excellent brand benefits it had delivered. I am pleased to say that notwithstanding the review our association was unbroken and the UBS Hong Kong Open remains the flagship in UBS’s sponsorship programme in Asia Pacific. As Hong Kong’s oldest sporting event, its impressive roster of past champions, as well as the tournament’s seemingly unerring ability to attract world-class players, means the relationship is extremely important to us. We are proud of our long and successful pa r t nersh ip wit h t he Hong Kong G ol f Association and look forward to welcoming players and spectators to this year’s Open which remains a marquee tournament in Asia’s golfing calendar.
Courtesy of UBS
You've been with UBS for 23 years, which is a lengthy amount of time in any company. Of all the events – golfing and non-golfing alike – that UBS has supported during that time, how does the UBS Hong Kong Open rank among them? That is a difficult question to which there is no easy answer. While there is a special place in my heart for the UBS Hong Kong Open, all of our sponsorship programmes offer unique benefits in their own way. Overall, our sponsorship programme seeks to include properties that appeal to a variety of audiences. A common thread in all and, 46
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I believe, also a key factor in their individual success, is their premium quality. The UBS Hong Kong Open, Formula One, and the Beijing Music Festival offer different things to different audiences but, nonetheless, all seek to establish an emotional link with those involved, be they clients, employees or the general public. A ll the properties in our sponsorship portfolio are client-focused and, typically, include ample opportunities for client and employee engagement. We also go to great lengths to use our sponsorship properties to support and reinforce our community affairs programmes not only financially but also via community involvement. All of our properties are strong and I am pleased to report that they continue to get better year on year.
What changes or additions to the tournament can we expect for this year? We take pride in not resting on our laurels and the sponsorship team has been working tirelessly over the past 12 months to ensure that this year’s tournament breaks new boundaries. While I do not wish to give too much away, HKGOLFER.COM
there will plenty of improvements and surprises to this year’s edition. We continue to work closely with Asian Tour and the Hong Kong Golf Association and, for the first time, with the European Tour, to broaden the appeal of the Open and of golf in Hong Kong and Asia. What do you see as the main benefits to UBS as a result of golf sponsorship, as opposed to say Formula One which UBS has recently became involved in? Our sponsorship programmes seek to generate broad appeal among our clients, our employees and, more broadly, in the communities in which we operate. Of course, our entry into the world of Formula One has generated a great deal of positive publicity and is an exciting development for UBS globally. However, there is something unique about golf and the Hong Kong Open. I think in large part it is the accessibility of golf as many of our clients and employees play the game regularly. It is a factor which brings an entirely different aspect to our sponsorship activation. Golf offers our clients the opportunity to make a connection with star players, whether they are accomplished professionals or firsttime players. Golf is an aspirational sport with a context that goes far beyond the course. This aspect of the game has helped to fuel the growth of golf in the region and has become a very important factor in our sponsorship of the Open so we work extremely hard at the activation stage to maximize opportunities for spectators.
Proud partner: Kathryn with popular Englishman Ian Poulter at last year's UBS Hong Kong Open. "Golf is an aspirational sport with a context that goes far beyond the course," says Kathryn.
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Flying the flag: Kathryn with former Masters champion Mike Weir at the 2008 UBS Hong Kong Open. "Over the period of our sponsorship of the UBS Hong Kong Open, the tournament has helped develop significant brand familiarity and favourability for UBS among the public in Hong Kong and beyond."
Do you see the event's position in the European Tour schedule – directly before the Dubai World Championship and after the Champions event in Shanghai and the Singapore Open – a help or a hindrance? The UBS Hong Kong Open’s position in the calendar in advance of the Dubai World Championship is a great asset as the players are extremely motivated to attend and to perform at their absolute peak to progress in the race to Dubai. Which has been your favourite UBS Hong Kong Open of the five that you have been personally involved with?
This is an impossible question. There have been too many exciting moments over the tournaments that I have been lucky enough to attend. But if pressed, I would probably choose the 50th anniversary of the event  with its nail-biting finish. Having said that, I fully expect this year’s Open to be the best ever and am really looking forward to the tee off. Five years ago this magazine featured an interview with you and at the time you were a 19-handicapper struggling to find time to play. Has that changed – and if so, where are you playing most of your golf? I am afraid that my handicap has widened to 22 since then. While I try and play between four and six times a month, work commitments and a demanding travel schedule ensure that I remain a weekend golfer. I have been lucky enough to have played at some of the most demanding and beautiful courses in the world. I particularly enjoy playing on the Eden Course at the Hong Kong Golf Club and at Discovery Bay. When did you start playing golf? My first sporting passion was tennis but around 10 years ago the golfing bug bit with a vengeance. My siblings have played golf since they were young so it has become very much a family affair. What would you say are the strengths of your game? In light of the increasing difficulty I have in finding the time to get on course, my efforts these days are primarily dedicated to ensuring that the standard of my game does not go into freefall. I certainly need to spend more time on the driving range. In your opinion, what would make for a perfect UBS Hong Kong Open this year? Every year of the UBS Hong Kong Open brings new challenges. Each year, we seek to improve the experience for our clients and employees both at the event and in the lead up. I am confident that we will be offering an even better hospitality experience this year than ever before. I am also proud that the UBS Hong Kong Open has developed a strong reputation among golfing professionals on both the European and Asian Tours. One of our primary goals is to ensure that the players enjoy their experience. In terms of attendance, I hope to see even more families attend, as UBS is committed to helping developing the game in Hong Kong, an integral part of which is introducing the game to new audiences.
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