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UBS to cut wealth management jobs in Asia, including relationship managers in S’pore: Sources

UBS Group is cutting about a hundred Asia wealth management jobs, just months after completing its takeover of rival Credit Suisse, as the bank responds to muted client activity and China’s slowing economy.

Switzerland’s largest bank has reduced some overlapping roles in the past months and further cuts are expected until November, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the plans are private.

The lender is set to eliminate roles that include relationship managers in Hong Kong and Singapore, the majority within teams newly acquired from Credit Suisse, the sources said. The number of cuts has not been finalised, they said.

The lender plans to keep the majority of private bankers in Australia and India for now, one of the sources said.

UBS is battling muted client sentiment and activity levels in the Asia-Pacific, where the regional business hub of Hong Kong has long been a booking centre, along with Singapore, for China’s ultra-wealthy. The wealth management unit’s profit before tax in the region fell by 9 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier. 

China’s economy expanded 3 per cent in 2022, one of its slowest rates of growth in decades as Covid-19 pandemic controls and a property crisis battered the country. Its eventual reopening provided hope that it would bounce back in 2023, but that recovery has lost ground and the benchmark stock index is on track for a third straight year of losses. 

A UBS spokesman declined to comment.

Since closing the takeover of Credit Suisse in June, UBS has outlined major targets for the integration of its former rival, including 3,000 domestic job cuts and more than US$10 billion (S$13.6 billion) in cost savings. That is likely to be a fraction of the roles to disappear globally.

The reductions come as other banks such as Barclays and Goldman Sachs Group also trim headcount. Barclays plans to dismiss about 5 per cent of client-facing staff in the trading division as well as some dealmakers globally as part of the cuts, Bloomberg News has reported. 

UBS, which is based in Zurich, completed its three billion Swiss franc (S$4.6 billion) purchase of the smaller Swiss firm following an emergency government-brokered deal earlier in 2023.

In the months that followed, global wealth boss Iqbal Khan hosted celebratory events in Hong Kong and Singapore to rally his enlarged crew to gather more fee-generating assets.

Asia had been earmarked as one of the regions to be spared deep cuts, in a bet on the region’s lucrative clients, Bloomberg previously reported. UBS had about 850 private bankers in the region at the year end, while Credit Suisse had 580, according to data from Asian Private Banker.

Still, a steady trickle of exits has included even senior bankers who recently joined.

Mr Gautam Anand, a managing director in Singapore hired from Credit Suisse in 2022, has no longer been with UBS since end-August, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s registry. He started at UBS in January as part of efforts to bolster services for India’s wealthy diaspora. Mr Anand did not comment when contacted by text message.

In Hong Kong, bankers including Credit Suisse’s Mr Martin Loh, a market group head for China, and Mr Joe Lau have also left in the past few months. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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