UBS AG (UBSN), Switzerland’s biggest lender, may move the staff of its U.S. investment bank from Stamford, Connecticut, to the World Trade Center in Manhattan by 2015, a person with direct knowledge of the plan said.
Some employees from equities and investment banking have already relocated from UBS’s Stamford location, which houses the world’s biggest trading floor, to other offices in New York City, the person said. The rest would be moved in coming years, said the person, who declined to be identified because plans for the transfer haven’t been publicly disclosed.
UBS completed its Stamford expansion in 2002, creating a trading floor the size of two football fields for 1,400 people. The office is about an hour by train from Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal. UBS leases more than 3 million square feet of office space for various operations in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut region, said Torie von Alt, a spokeswoman for the Zurich-based bank.
“We routinely evaluate our space allocation as these leases expire and/or space becomes available,” von Alt said in an e-mailed statement. “Movement of personnel is a constant in any active business.”
UBS is in discussions with New York developer Larry Silverstein for occupying about 800,000 square feet at Three World Trade Center, one of four towers slated to be built on the 16-acre site, according to another person familiar with the talks. The person declined to be identified because the discussions are private. Currently, UBS’s biggest New York City offices are at 299 Park Avenue and 1285 Avenue of the Americas.
The Swiss company is trying to rebuild its investment bank after record losses during the financial crisis. The lender had the lowest 2010 revenue from trading, underwriting stock and bond sales, and advising clients on mergers and acquisitions among the nine biggest investment banks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. UBS ranked fourth by revenue among 10 competitors in 2004, the data show.
This year, four of the 10 business heads who reported to Carsten Kengeter, CEO of the investment bank, left UBS. The bank saw at least 50 departures from its U.S. investment-banking unit since 2009.
“If they decide to move back to New York City, this will be a competitive advantage for them in terms of going after talent,” said New York-based Lars Gloessner, manager of the global-markets unit of Huxley Associates, a recruitment firm.
The move by UBS isn’t related to a Connecticut tax increase passed earlier this month, according to one of the people.
“It is our understanding the company has made no long-term decisions as to the future of its operations,” said Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. “We have made very clear the state’s commitment to seeing UBS maintain and grow its operations in the state and ensuring our financial-services sector maintains its competitive edge.”
The departures and speculation in the media have prompted the bank to reiterate its commitment to the securities unit in recent weeks. UBS Chief Executive Officer Oswald Gruebel told U.S. investment bankers in a memo on May 20 that the bank is “committed” to keeping and investing in the division.
“Our strong commitment to the breadth of the business in the U.S. is unchanged,” Gruebel wrote in the memo seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by a UBS spokeswoman.
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