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Thank You, and Goodbye PaineWebber

The company's Swiss parent is pushing advisors to comply with its effort to slim down the monkier to, simply, UBS.

On June 9, UBS AG, the Swiss banking giant, officially pulled the plug on the PaineWebber name, three years after buying the No. 4 retail brokerage. The firm is now known simply as UBS. That is if UBS can convince brokers to stop saying PaineWebber, a 124-year-old Wall Street institution and a household name, thanks to the long-running “Thank you, PaineWebber” campaign.

So, UBS has come up with a little memory-enhancement device: money. According to UBS reps, advisors who follow through on orders to call clients and tell them PaineWebber is history and UBS is the future will receive a $500 donation to the charity of their choosing. Some office managers are seizing on the program to increase the firm's visibility in their communities, by asking advisors to choose a single local charity and pooling their donations.

“They've encouraged us to be proactive by doing something good,” says one rep. “From my perspective, the name change has been a positive.”

The firm is also picking up the tab for advisors to take preferred clients out for breakfast or lunch meetings. According to one UBS rep, the firm has indicated that Chairman's Club level FAs may take up to 50 clients out for dinner to explain the name change, which is part of the bank's global branding strategy. According to another advisor, the deal is restricted to wealthier clients, and the subsidy is only $50.

There's more to the campaign than programming clients to say UBS. “At the meeting you're supposed to hit them for a referral, too,” says the rep. “It's a soft touch approach, and it has been working.”

UBS has slowly been transitioning to a single brand over several years. The initial merger of UBS and PaineWebber occurred in 2000. In early 2001, the name was changed to UBS PaineWebber. Now, each of the four business units (PaineWebber, UBS Warburg, Global Asset Management and Private Banking) will operate under the UBS name. On the company org chart, the brokerage unit is now officially known as UBS Wealth Management USA. “The move is not so much a change as a progression to where we have been heading,” according to company documents.

Branding and marketing experts believe the move to operate under the UBS name should pay off for the firm and its advisors. Paul Bates, adjunct professor of marketing at the University of Toronto and former CEO of Schwab Canada, believes the firm is banking on what it believes is a stronger European brand name, which could be a plus given the battered image of the financial services industry in the U.S. “European private banks are perceived as being more focused on the investment activities of their clients,” says Bates.

Bates also points out that current clients are “used to reading macroeconomic research from UBS, so they've been introduced to the name.”

The move to a single brand has been a costly affair for the firm. Net profits for 2002 fell 29 percent, dragged down in part by a $706 million writedown associated with the withdrawal of the PaineWebber name.

Funny Fact

A Dangerous Guarantee With Brokers Around

“Guaranteed Best Sales And Marketing Ideas Of Entire Conference Or I Buy All Drinks Thurs Night 9-11.”
— An invitation written by Phil Eichinger, national sales manager of Planco, a Hartford Life subsidiary, to his session at the Royal Alliance conference in Las Vegas, May 30.

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