UBS Betting Big On Asia

The head of the U.S. wealth management division was its highest paid executive this year, but the Swiss bank is placing its future bets on emerging markets.

UBS Wealth Management will embark on a global expansion outside the U.S., announcing yesterday it will hire another 500 advisers in the fast-growing emerging markets and Asia Pacific regions.

The brokerage division of Swiss bank UBS AG said it anticipates the worldwide wealth management market will grow twice as fast as the global economy. The new hires, slated to occur over the next two to three years, will bring the number of financial advisors outside the U.S. to 4,700 from about 4,200 today.

UBS noted it was focusing on Hong Kong and Singapore. The bank also said it would continue to invest wealth management resources in China, India as well as the emerging markets of the Middle East, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe.

The Americas division, which stood at 6,697 FAs at the end of last year, was unlikely to see any significant growth in advisor headcount, Karina Byrne, a spokeswoman for UBS Wealth Management Americas said. Bob McCann, CEO of UBS WMA, has repeatedly said the size of its advisor network would hover around 7,000.

UBS's net profit worldwide last year plunged nearly 45 percent to $4.50 billion. UBS WMA, meanwhile, posted a profit of $576m last year after a loss of about $33 million in 2010. Still, that is short of McCann’s long-term annual goal of $1 billion.

In its annual report, UBS disclosed it had paid McCann nearly $9.9 million in overall compensation last year. That eclipses investment banking head Carsten Kengeter, making McCann the Swiss bank's highest earner. UBS recently said Kengeter agreed to waive his 2011 bonus for last year after the $2 billion rogue trading scandal.

One person at UBS, who declined to be named, said that about 75 percent of the bonus award money would be deferred. Since taking the helm of the troubled brokerage unit in 2009, McCann had engineered a dramatic improvement, in part by stemming the tide of FA departures. FA turnover had declined precipitously, from the high teens in 2009 to the low single digits under his watch. UBS WMA boasts it has some of the most productive industry brokers in the industry today, as measured by revenue per advisor.

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