UBS investment bankers were given a target of 300 client meetings a year to boost business -- and it seems to be working

  • UBS’s first-quarter profit rose 17% but shares fell 4% in Zurich.
  • The bank’s global wealth management business missed forecasts.
  • The investment bank did better than expected thanks to the return of volatility.
  • Investment bank CEO Andrea Orcel has been trying to squeeze more productivity out of his division by mandating that bankers meet up to 300 clients a year in a bid to boost business.

LONDON – UBS’s investment bank performed strongly in the first quarter, boosted by the return of market volatility.

The Swiss banking group delivered its first-quarter results on Monday. Here are the highlights:

  • Pre-tax profit rose 17% to CHF 1.97 billion ($US2 billion).
  • The combined wealth management operation missed targets: The bank is currently rolling its two wealth management divisions into one, known as Global Wealth Management. The division delivered pre-tax profits CHF 1.12 billion ($US1.1 billion) in the first quarter. That’s up 7% on last year but below analysts forecasts.
  • The investment bank did well: The investment bank delivered pre-tax profits of CHF 629 million ($US644 million), up 23%, and an adjusted return on attributed equity of 25%. That was above analysts forecasts. The investment bank was boosted by the return of market volatility in the first quarter, with equity trading revenue up 17%.
  • UBS shares fell 4% on the results: Investors focused in on the disappointing numbers in wealth management rather than the investment banking beat.

UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti’s key strategy for the bank since taking charge in 2011 has been to focus it on serving wealthy clients through its wealth management operations, subsequently downplaying investment banking.

Andrea Orcel, the head of UBS’s investment bank, has been trying to boost his division’s performance. Bloomberg reported on Friday that Orcel is mandating that MDs overseeing specific sectors at the bank must take 250 client meetings a year, while M&A and IPO bankers must meet at least 300 clients.

The targets are said to be closely monitored and are just one part of a wider push to increase the intensity of work at the investment banking division. UBS declined to comment on the report.

Ermotti said in a statement: “We had an excellent start to 2018, with our results once again showing the power of our diversified business. Momentum in our business is good and we continue to invest for growth and efficiency.”

But JPMorgan analyst Kian Abouhossein said the results were “disappointing across all divisions except investment banking and we do not expect consensus to upgrade but potentially see risks of downgrades,” according to Bloomberg.

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