UBS to cut 240 jobs in Asia-Pacific wealth management

Cathy Chan

UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, said it will eliminate about 240 jobs from its wealth management division in the Asia-Pacific region, as global financial turmoil saps the spending power of its clients.

The cuts include 100 positions in Singapore and represent about 3 percent of the Zurich-based company’s staff in the region, said Mark Panday, a spokesman in Hong Kong.

“In common with its competitors, the slowdown in the global economy and the ongoing challenging economic conditions have prompted a renewed focus on the management of costs, including as a last resort, those related to staff,” he said.

The bank is reducing costs as it braces against what Chief Executive Officer Oswald Gruebel describes as the “icy headwind” caused by turmoil in global financial markets. The blow for Singapore comes as the government today said the economy may shrink as much as 9 percent in 2009, the most since independence in 1965.

The private-banking industry in Asia faces a “big shakeout” as investor appetite for risk declines and fees fall, Tee Fong Seng, UBS’s chief of key wealth management clients in the region, said last month.

Individuals worldwide with more than $1 million probably saw the value of their assets shrink by as much as 25 percent in 2008, Stephen Wall, a London-based Scorpio Partnership Ltd., said earlier in an interview.

Writedowns and losses

UBS has announced more than 11,000 job cuts and amassed more than $50 billion in writedowns and losses since the beginning of the financial crisis. Losses have forced it to raise more than $32 billion in capital from investors, including the Swiss government.

On March 11, UBS posted a 20.9 billion franc full-year loss, the biggest in Switzerland’s history.

Companies in Singapore probably fired more than 10,000 workers in the first three months of 2009, the Straits Times cited Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying last week. Singapore Airlines Ltd. has frozen pay and asked employees to take unpaid leave, and publisher Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. has cut wages.

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