UBS Sticking Around in Russia in Bet on Long-Term Deal Recovery

  • Swiss bank doesn't plan to cut jobs, country chief Titova says
  • No IPOs expected by clients before second half of next year

UBS Group AG will maintain its presence in Russia even as competitors retreat as it bets that deals will start to recover, according to the Swiss bank’s top executive for the country.

UBS has no plans to cut jobs in its investment banking and wealth-management businesses in Russia and is “seriously considering” hiring former employees of Deutsche Bank AG, which cut jobs last month, Elena Titova, chief executive officer of UBS’s Russian unit, said in an interview.

"Clients appreciate when banks stay with them, even if they can’t work properly due to sanctions" against the country, Titova said in Moscow on Sept. 28. "Such consistency with time turns into income."

Russia is in recession for the first time since 2009 and bank profit has fallen to a 13-year low as deals dry up, according to data compiled by Freeman & Co. Deutsche Bank last month announced a plan to close its Russian investment banking businesses, cutting about 200 jobs by the end of the year, as Germany’s largest bank faces probes into whether trades by Russian clients violated money-laundering laws.

UBS organized its last public Eurobond sale a year ago, Titova said. Although there are a number of deals in the pipeline, including an IPO, they are unlikely to happen until the second half of 2016, she estimated.

The Russian operations are a "material and meaningful part of UBS’s business” with more than 100 employees in Moscow, she said, without specifying how they are divided between investment banking and wealth management. UBS is "growing" its wealth-management business in Russia, she said.

The only way investment banks can earn money in Russia now is by offering structural financing, she said. Still, if UBS keeps up its relations with clients, mergers, acquisitions and IPOs will come sooner or later, according to Titova.

UBS cut jobs in Moscow by 40 percent over 2012 and 2013 as part of a global restructuring, Titova said. "We keep looking at the possibilities to upgrade the team. This doesn’t mean we hire a lot, but if we see interesting options, like in the case with the former Deutsche Bank employees, then we’ll consider them seriously."

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