UBS to Expand Asia Corporate Advisory Headcount by 10%

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UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank, plans to increase its Asia corporate advisory and capital markets team by 10 percent over three years to tap expansion in the world’s fastest-growing region.

The bank may move some staff from Australia to faster-growing parts of Asia, Matthew Grounds, head of the Asia-Pacific corporate client solutions unit for UBS, said in an interview in Sydney yesterday, without disclosing how many people his group employs in either market. The Zurich-based bank doesn’t plan to increase its headcount in Australia, he said.

The goals for Asia contrast with restructuring of UBS’s investment banking business worldwide as it scales back fixed-income operations and cuts 10,000 jobs over three years to focus on money management. Andrea Orcel, CEO of the investment bank, said in November that the Asia-Pacific region is viewed as a “second home market.”

“We led early with the headcount reductions globally,” said Grounds, referring to job cuts that began at the bank in

2011. “Activity levels are picking up, so for us it’s about investing and redeploying our people.”

The firm employed 7,426 people in the Asia-Pacific region at the end of last year, accounting for about 12 percent of its global workforce, according to its website. The investment banking unit had 15,866 people worldwide at that time.

Top Bank

UBS was the top underwriter of share sales in the Asia-Pacific region excluding Japan in the first quarter as fundraising climbed 20 percent from a year earlier to $38.6 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Mergers and acquisitions in the region fell 26 percent to $87 billion in the period, the smallest in four years, the data show. UBS was ranked No. 16 among financial advisers on takeovers.

Some investment banks are still cutting jobs in Asia.

Morgan Stanley and Barclays Plc are paring about 15 percent of their investment banking positions in the region, people with knowledge of the matter said in January. Mirae Asset Securities Co., the brokerage affiliate of South Korea’s second-largest money manager, today said it will eliminate half of its 38 jobs in Hong Kong.

UBS in November split the investment bank into two groups. Corporate client solutions, which Grounds heads for the region, includes mergers advisory, capital markets and financing solutions for corporate, financial institutions and private-equity firms. Investor client services encompasses equities, foreign exchange, precious metals, rates and credit.

Regulatory Fines

UBS posted a second straight quarterly loss in February after booking a fine for trying to rig global interest rates and costs tied to job cuts. The net loss amounted to 1.89 billion Swiss francs ($2.03 billion) in the fourth quarter, compared with a 323 million franc profit a year earlier.

The bank was fined about 1.4 billion francs in December by regulators in the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland for altering its submissions used to set benchmarks such as the London interbank offered rate.

In Australia, UBS has been the top equity underwriter for eight of the past nine years and lead adviser for M&A transactions for two of the past five years, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The challenge for us is to do what we have done with the Australian business over the last five years: That is, to further cement our position over the next three years,” said Grounds, who is also chief executive officer for Australasia. “So that it has an even deeper bench, stronger market positions and it becomes clearly the first home market for UBS globally.”