The world's wealthiest people have responded to economic worries by buying gold by the bar -- and sometimes by the ton -- and by moving assets out of the financial system, bankers catering to the very rich said on Monday.
Fears of a double-dip downturn have boosted the appetite for physical bullion as well as for mining company shares and exchange-traded funds, UBS executive Josef Stadler told the Reuters Global Private Banking Summit.
"They don't only buy ETFs or futures; they buy physical gold," said Stadler, who runs the Swiss bank's services for clients with assets of at least $50 million to invest.
UBS is recommending top-tier clients hold 7-10 percent of their assets in precious metals like gold, which is on course for its tenth consecutive yearly gain and traded at around $1,314.50 an ounce on Monday, near the record level reached last week.
"We had a clear example of a couple buying over a ton of gold ... and carrying it to another place," Stadler said. At today's prices, that shipment would be worth about $42 million.
Julius Baer's chief investment officer for Asia is also recommending that wealthy investors park some of their assets in gold as a defensive stance following a string of lackluster U.S. data and amid concerns about currency weakness.
"I see gold as an insurance," Van Anantha-Nageswaran said. "I recommend 10 percent as minimum in portfolios and anything more than that to be used for trading purposes, to respond to short-term over-bought or over-sold signals."