Sunday, January 13, 2013

UBS Retreat Plotted at Castle as Credit Suisse Cuts Costs

In September, UBS AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti gathered the bank’s top executives at Switzerland's Wolfsberg castle.
Switzerland’s 437-year-old Wolfsberg castle has welcomed the likes of Alexandre Dumas and Franz Liszt. In September, UBS AG (UBSN) Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti gathered the bank’s top executives there for dinner.
UBS had been under pressure since losing more than $57 billion during the financial crisis. So had its main competitor, Credit Suisse Group AG. In 2011, Swiss lawmakers approved some of the strictest capital and liquidity rules in the world, forcing the banks to cut risk taking and boost equity at the expense of profit in their securities units.
The end of banking secrecy, which had helped the firms attract funds from rich clients around the world, was challenging a century-old wealth-management model. A 32-year-old former UBS employee, Kweku Adoboli, would go on trial in London the next week in connection with a $2.3 billion loss, the largest from unauthorized trading in British history.
“For banks domiciled in Switzerland, doing business and making money has become more difficult,” central bank President Thomas Jordan told financiers at a conference in Zurich two days before UBS’s Wolfsberg meeting. “Pressure on the Swiss financial center has been intensifying.”