UBS Financial Services Inc., a New York-based wealth-management company, is the world's largest money manager for ultra high-net-worth clients. It's a subsidiary of UBS Americas Inc., whose ultimate corporate parent is the Zurich-based financial giant UBS AG. Offerings include securities, trading, brokerage, and related products and services, including lending and cash management services, credit cards, FDIC-insured deposits, securities-backed lending and mortgages. Its planning services include education funding, charitable giving, tax management strategies, estate strategies, insurance, retirement, and trusts and foundations. It also provides stock-option and related services to U.S. corporations and their executives. The unit also has specialized client advisers to support entrepreneurs.
The company's Swiss parent recently turned over its executive suite, following a stretch of bad news, including a U.S. cross-border tax-evasion investigation, huge losses, job cuts and a bailout from the Swiss government. The tax case stemmed from a UBS private banker raising red flags about questionable tax-and-client practices and whether the bank adequately investigated the problems. As part of a deal to avoid criminal prosecution, UBS agreed to pay $780 million and reveal the identities of approximately 4,450 U.S. clients suspected of hiding offshore accounts. But a Swiss court recently threw the settlement into question, ruling that files on private-bank clients shouldn't be turned over to U.S. authorities.
The U.S. wealth-management business, which includes the legacy firm of PaineWebber, has lost key client advisers as the bank struggles with morale problems. It recently hired ex-Merrill executive Robert McCann as its new brokerage head to stage a turnaround. He is reportedly encouraging key staffers to move over to the firm's Weehawken office, the brokerage's operations hub. Rumor has it that the firm is getting ready to spin off. Plans to turn the business around include reducing attrition among financial advisers, continuing to cut costs, boosting adviser revenue and expanding the lending side of the business. McCann plans to refocus the group on wealthier clients and higher-producing advisers, to compete with rivals on quality rather than quantity.
The U.S. subsidiary has reportedly been on a financial-advisor hiring spree -- with plans to add as many as 600 advisors and maintain a force of about 7,000. Industry observers have speculated that the recruiting may be window dressing ahead of a sale. UBS says it has no plans to sell the unit.
The firm has reportedly ended its recent practice of luring in new advisors with big upfront payments. Advisors' self-reported average annual gross production was $696,032 on an average of $101.2 million in clients' assets under management, according to Registered Rep's 2009 broker report card survey.