UBS mulls investment bank overhaul, hundreds of jobs at risk

August 10, 2019
Financial firm is seeking to boost collaboration between dealmakers and the wealth management unit

Almost a year after taking over at UBS Group’s investment bank, co-heads Piero Novelli and Rob Karofsky are working on their first shake-up of the business.

Mr Novelli, who runs deals, is considering a reshuffle of his leadership as he and trading chief Mr Karofsky seek to revamp a division that’s posted volatile results in the past year, according to people familiar with the matter. Their plans could entail hundreds of job cuts, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations aren’t public.

The discussions are preliminary and a final decision hasn’t been made, the people said. UBS declined to comment.

UBS is seeking to boost collaboration between dealmakers and the wealth management unit, while sharpening a focus on industries most of interest to its richest clients. That approach has already been successful for the Swiss bank this year.

The business of advising clients on deals and stock offerings was a standout in the second quarter, after slumping 48 per cent in the first three months of the year.

UBS has also tapped into its network of wealthy clients. The firm helped Asian families secure billions of dollars worth of investments in Manhattan properties with help from the investment bank. The unit is also seeking to do more with private equity firms, pensions and sovereign wealth funds, adding talent from rivals.

Still, the investment bank’s 10 per cent return on equity in the first half of the year was roughly half that of the firm's other divisions. The unit had 5,333 employees at the end of June.

Investment banks are cutting thousands of jobs as difficult trading conditions and a slowing economy weigh on revenue. Deutsche Bank is eliminating 18,000 jobs, Societe Generale has announced 1,600 cuts, and Citigroup is preparing to shed hundreds of positions in its trading division.

Mr Novelli and Mr Karofsky recently set up a new unit - called Private Capital Markets - to target a greater share of private transactions.

UBS promoted Mr Novelli and Mr Karofsky last September, splitting the role held by Andrea Orcel, who was set to join Spain’s Banco Santander as chief executive only to see his appointment fall through after the Spanish bank decided he was too expensive.


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