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UBS wealth management job cull starts with cuts in Asia, Europe

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UBS has cut as much as 20 per cent of the workforce in some European regions and is reducing management layers in Asia to bring clients closer to top decision-makers.

[ZURICH] UBS Group  started a sweeping round of job cuts at its global wealth management unit in Europe and Asia, targeting dismissals across the board as new co-head Iqbal Khan seeks to make his mark on the business.

UBS has cut as much as 20 per cent of the workforce in some European regions and is reducing management layers in Asia to bring clients closer to top decision-makers, people with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Asia has introduced a new organisational structure and will be followed by Western Europe, Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa. Job losses are taking place at every level from managing directors to assistants, the people said.

Mr Khan and co-head Tom Naratil are restructuring UBS's most important business to rein in costs and speed up decision making after Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti gave them 60 days to devise a plan to turn around the unit. While UBS hasn't communicated the extent of the cuts, people familiar with the matter have said it will likely affect about 500 employees. That comes after thousands of investment banking dismissals over the past decade as UBS pivoted toward private banking.

As part of the changes, UBS is dismantling a unit dedicated to the ultra rich - moving some client advisers into the regional divisions and others into its Globally Family Office unit - while also dividing the EMEA wealth business into three regions. Mr Khan pursued a regional strategy when he ran the international wealth management unit at Credit Suisse, splitting his division into seven regions to boost local decision-making. Now he and Mr Naratil are doing the same at UBS, some two years after the bank merged its Americas and global wealth units into a single business.

"We are taking steps to make it easier and faster for our clients to do business with UBS," the bank said in a statement. "Those changes impact a small number of roles."

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The US and Switzerland are likely to be less affected by the restructuring at the wealth management division, one person said.

Mr Khan is also working on other changes at the wealth management unit, saying UBS could score "quick wins" by increasing lending, a strategy he also used at Credit Suisse. The bank is targeting US$20 billion to US$30 billion in net new loans per year.

To help speed up time-consuming negotiations between wealth managers and the investment bank, UBS also plans to manage loans originated in the wealth unit through a separate risk book in its investment bank. It's eliminating a unit within wealth management called Investment Products and Solutions (IPS) that was the primary engine for coming up with financing structures and investment products.

Much of the work done by the IPS unit mimicked the investment bank and resulted in duplication of certain jobs such as those in structuring, sales and trading, which will now be part of a next round of job eliminations, said people with knowledge of the matter.

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