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Banks linked to Nazis seek to improve their image

UBS and SBC, the merging Swiss banks, have hired a corporate identity consultant to improve their tarnished images.

"It's certainly a challenge," said Kaspar Loeb, a member of the management committee of Interbrand Zintzmeyer & Lux, the Zurich branch of the Interbrand image consultancy.

Both UBS and SBC have received substantial amounts of negative press coverage following confirmation of their merger plans back in December. There have been hundreds of lay-offs at the investment banking arms of the two banks, questions surrounding the banks' links with Nazi Germany and hundreds of millions of pounds in trading losses at UBS.

Further bad press is likely in the coming months as the two banks begin to rationalise their branches in Switzerland.

Mr Loeb admitted the investment banking lay-offs had tarnished the SBC and UBS brands, although he added that the damage was mostly confined to the UK. "In Switzerland, the two banks are seen as trustworthy," he said.

According to Mr Loeb, UBS is commonly perceived as being the more "rigid" of the two banks, partially because of its handling of questions surrounding its links with Nazi Germany and dormant accounts of Holocaust victims.

Interbrand's first task would be to help determine the positioning of the new UBS brand, Mr Loeb said. Earlier this year, UBS brought in Bell Pottinger Financial, the PR agency.