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More advisors, higher profits at UBS

More advisors, higher profits at UBS

The US wealth management division of UBS AG reported record second quarter pre-tax profits today of $211 million, and $1.59 billion in revenues as it hired more advisors.

This marked the highest quarterly revenue for UBS Wealth Management Americas since before the 2008 financial crisis. The Swiss bank’s US division ended the latest quarter with 7,021 financial advisors, six more than the previous and 159 more than a year ago. Twelve months ago it had 6,862 advisors.

These FAs today are more productive. The average advisor generated $905,000 this quarter, a rise of one percent from $897,000 in the previous quarter and up three percent from $882,000 a year ago.

FAs had invested assets per advisor of $114 million in the latest quarter. It’s a dip of $1 million from the previous quarter and a rise of the same amount a year ago. Total invested assets were $797 billion, a drop from $897 billion in the first quarter but up from $774 billion a year ago. UBS cited a decline in the market performance of assets for the dip in the second quarter. Because of annual client tax payments, UBS said it had net new money of $3.8 billion, down 17 percent from $4.6 billion in the last quarter. It is a jump of 27 percent from $3 billion a year ago.

Karina Byrne, a UBS spokeswoman, confirmed that the latest profits for the Americas division are the highest since UBS acquired the former PaineWebber business in 2000. The second quarter revenues are the highest since the first quarter of 2008, she added. At this pace, the once struggling division of UBS moved a tad closer to the goal of about $1 billion in annual pre-tax profits. That goal was laid out by CEO Bob McCann when the former Merrill Lynch brokerage chief took the helm in late 2009. Although it is just $2 million more than the first quarter, it has climbed 28 percent from $165 million a year ago.

Praising the results, Alois Pirker, a brokerage industry analyst at Aite Group, said if the UBS Americas division can keep up the pace, it will be “moving in the right direction.” Scott Smith, a brokerage industry analyst at Cerulli Associates, said that with an advisor network more than half the size of its individual competitors, including Wells Fargo, BofA’s Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, UBS is positioned for growth.

Smith noted that the more nimble UBS division was not distracted by integration issues that afflicted Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. Indeed, UBS said its cost/income ratio in the Americas division improved in the second quarter to 86.6 percent, within the target range of 80-90 percent. Elsewhere, UBS AG reported a 58 percent second quarter drop in net profits. It was impacted by trading conditions and its involvement with the Facebook IPO disaster. At UBS, wealth management is at the forefront. Net income at UBS overall dropped to $434 million in the second quarter. At the same time, UBS AG CEO Sergio Ermotti has outlined plans to reduce the size of UBS’s investment bank -- to concentrate on wealth management. Rising capital requirements and Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis are hurting profitability, he said. “UBS has made it clear that it will achieve its goals in wealth management by having the highest quality advisors,” noted Cerulli’s Smith.

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