UBS starts job cuts at Asia wealth unit after profit slump

UBS Group started cutting jobs at its Asia private banking division this week as a slump in profits weighs on the region’s largest wealth manager, according to people familiar with the matter.

The firm is cutting about 70 people, including relationship managers, mainly in Hong Kong and Singapore through the end of March, one of the people said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment.

Wealth generation in China has stalled as the nation’s economy struggles to regain momentum amid a property crisis and a sell-off in equities. Rivals such as Citigroup have also been cutting wealth jobs and in their investment banks in the region.

The reductions, which confirm an earlier Bloomberg News report, included bankers who joined from Credit Suisse as part of the integration after the takeover by UBS.

UBS’ pretax profit for Asia Pacific slumped 46 per cent to US$97 million (S$129.35 million), during the fourth quarter from a year ago, the lowest of all the regions globally. Meanwhile, the cost-to-income ratio in the region rose to 87.7 per cent. UBS has the biggest wealth management workforce in Asia, with a total of 1,101 advisers as at Dec 31.

Chief executive officer Sergio Ermotti warned in February that 2024 will be more difficult, as the costs from the takeover of its former rival weigh on results before UBS can realise the benefits. The lender’s workforce jumped to about 120,000 when the Credit Suisse deal closed in June.

During the three months to December, UBS’ key wealth management unit reported global pre-tax profit of US$381 million, well below analyst estimates of US$1.07 billion. Still, net new money at the unit came to US$21.8 billion, better than forecast.

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