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UBS Wealth Management Unit Pulls Into First Place, McCann Tells Troops

The “rogue” trading loss and departure of CEO Oswald Grubel doesn’t seem to have driven clients away from UBS in the third quarter. In fact, despite the CHF 1.8 billion trading loss recorded in September, the firm as a whole turned a pretax profit of CHF 1 billion in the third quarter, and the wealth management Americas division was a bright spot, pulling in strong client asset flows.

UBS Wealth Management Americas reeled in $4.8 billion in net new money for the quarter, up 55 percent from $3.1 billion in the second quarter and a whopping 1500 percent higher versus the year ago quarter. Year to date net new money totaled $11.6 billion versus outflows of $9 billion last year. Total invested assets are $715 billion in the third quarter, down 8 percent from the prior quarter due to market performance.

UBS has been in turn-around mode for several quarters now after its reputation was battered by scuffles between the IRS and the Swiss government over tax evasion by UBS clients as well as auction rate securities litigation, and more recently the trading loss and Grubel resignation.

In a memo to financial advisors, head of the UBS Wealth Management Americas group Bob McCann praised their hard work, leadership and told them they are now the leading wealth management firm, as reflected by advisor productivity and invested assets and low attrition. “Through your hard work, leadership, a focused execution of our strategy and an unwavering resilience to serving clients, we’ve transformed WMA into a leading wealth management firm,” McCann wrote in the memo. “All of you have worked exceedingly hard to put our business in the competitive position it is today. But we are not claiming victory” he continued, going on to say that UBS is in a better position in terms of funding and balance sheet issues than its rivals.

Advisor productivity hit $895,000 for the quarter, up 14 percent versus the year ago’s $782,000. This puts UBS ahead of its peers in productivity, the firm says ($854,000 for BAC/ML, $747,000 for MSSB and $612,000 for WFC.) Invested assets per FA for the quarter totaled $103 million, “keeping UBS in its leading position among US wealth management peers, the firm reported (BAC/ML is at $90 million per FA, MSSB is also at $90 million per FA and WFC is at $69 million per FA).

Advisor headcount inched up to 6,913 advisors, reflecting a net increase of 117 advisors year-to-date. Advisor attrition of 3.1 percent is at its lowest since 2005, the firm said.

Pre-tax profit for the wealth management division hit $165 million in the third quarter, up slightly from the second quarter and versus a loss of $47 million in the third quarter of last year. Operating income for the quarter totaled $1.54 billion, up 16 percent versus $1.325 billion in the year ago quarter.

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