Despite the fact that Swiss banks have cut their exposure to the Greek debt crisis to almost nothing, Swiss giant UBS (UBS) is well aware that it must have a tight ship if it’s going to fare the Greek storm better than it did the 2008 global economic crisis. Between September and December 2009, Swiss banks, including UBS and Credit Suisse (CS), dropped their overall Greek debt exposure to $3.4 billion from about $60 billion and were only holding about $2.6 billion by the end of 2010, according to the Bank of International Settlements.
Both UBS and Credit Suisse have made public statements that their Greek debt exposure won’t have major effects on their bottom lines, but this rocky ride only starts with Greece. It may not end there.
Europe has had a tough time of it since 2008, with Portugal, Ireland, and Spain seen as the weakest links in the eurozone after Greece. Debt deals and swaps are ongoing in those countries, with fallout expected throughout the region. That means all major banks are at risk.
UBS’s head of wealth management has indicated that there will be cost-cutting measures across the board, like its recent cut in 500 technology jobs, with little hiring going on except for potential expansion in Switzerland and a major ramp up in Asia.
Asia, especially in the area of wealth management, has bucked the trend. The company is expecting growth in its high-net worth business by up to 20 percent in the next five years. Investments in senior bankers for the region will take a priority there.
UBS recently appointed former Bundesbank head Axel Weber to be its new chairman beginning in 2013, effectively eliminating Germany’s chances of taking over leadership at the European Central Bank when the current chief retires and leaving Deutsche Bank (DB) in a bind to finalize its own succession plans.
Weber will be replacing the current UBS Chairman Kaspar Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister in his 70s who was brought out of retirement to give the bank the appearance of stability coming out of the 2008 economic crisis.
Weber has promised a generational change at the bank, referring also to its
CEO Oswald Gruebel, who was brought out of retirement as well.
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