James Moore: Formerly wealthy UBS shows poverty of ideas

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The Independent Online

Outlook Whatever Mr Jenkins says at his forthcoming strategy day, it's unlikely to be anything like as radical as what occurred at UBS following its brush with the authorities over Libor fixing.

What was once Switzerland's top bank, and a genuine rival to the Americans in terms of investment banking, abruptly fired 10,000 people and announced plans to jettison large parts of the investment banking business.

It says much about the state of the bank that a Sfr1.9bn (£1.3bn) loss in the fourth quarter of 2012 was actually hailed as positive.

Long term, UBS's plan is, of course, to return to its roots as a "wealth manager", which is why all the yahoos from the bank's trading floor found themselves on the street carrying bin bags full of their personal items. The future lies with silky smooth private bankers in Savile Row suits recruited by and trained by a bank which wants to go back to its past as a wealth manager. The only problem with that, of course, is that wealth management is a business that a lot of people want to be in right now.

The reason Swiss banks became so successful at it in the first place was because of their skill at helping clients to salt away their gains far from the prying eyes of the authorities, shielding them not just from tax but from detailed scrutiny into where the money actually came from.

That's rather frowned upon these days, and it's notable that the bank's standard-bearing wealth management division didn't do all that well, weighed down as it was by performance in Europe where the bank has been taking flak over allegations that it has helped tax cheats.