UBS cuts: Asia affected, Australia escapes

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Comparatively small cuts in Asia

Singapore and Hong Kong are still comparatively safe havens for UBS bankers as the firm makes 10,000 job cuts to its investment bank, mainly in Switzerland, Europe and the US. But unlike Australia, the two Asian cities will not escape unscathed.

A Hong Kong headhunter with knowledge of the bank, who asked not to be named, says a few redundancies were announced in Hong Kong from 8am on Tuesday morning. Credit and rates roles were trimmed across a range of seniorities, although the number of staff affected is likely to be low proportionally. USB has emphasised that Switzerland, London and Stamford, Connecticut will be the worst-hit locations.

FICC is bearing the brunt of the global lay-offs, including in Asia, as the bank pulls back from its less-profitable trading operations. “The key factor driving this is Basel III’s capital requirements, which reduce the profitability/ROI of the division,” says another recruiter.

He adds that Singapore has already suffered redundancies in FICC sales, but some FICC traders will be reassigned into wealth management. Private banking is the bank’s core business under its new restructuring plans; and as a hub for wealthy Asians, Singapore is an important base for UBS. Although equities has not had a strong year, it will “remain an important division in Asia, which the firm will continue to focus on and grow,” says the recruiter.

In India, UBS is expected to make cuts in the"high double digits”, according to media reports.

A spokesperson for UBS would not comment on Asian redundancies, but the bank has confirmed that its Australian headcount will not be reduced. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti as saying: “UBS in Australia is already operating a model which is consistent with our new strategy, and as a result will not be impacted by the changes being announced today.”

That’s not to say that the morale of Australian employees is unaffected by these and previously announced global cuts. A headhunter in Sydney says he has received more CVs from UBS staff this year than ever before.

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