UBS hires $10.8 billion team as net new client money in U.S. slides

The Swiss bank snags Wickham Cash Partners in Charlotte; reports $9 billion decline in net new money in Americas in Q4

UBS Private Wealth Management on Friday scored a coup with its hire of R. Mitchell Wickham and his 16-person team in Charlotte, N.C. from Merrill Lynch, Wickham Cash Partners, which manages $10.8 billion of client assets and produces $16.7 million in fees and commissions annually.

Like some of its competitors, UBS said a few years ago it would back away from recruiting advisers, which is expensive, and focus on the organic growth of its existing financial advisers. However, it continues to selectively recruit.

Meanwhile, UBS’s Americas wealth management business on Tuesday morning reported a drop of $9 billion of new money during the final quarter of 2019; other regions reported an increase of new client money of $4.4 billion. During the corresponding quarter in 2018, the Swiss bank reported a $3.6 billion decrease of net new client money.

UBS’s global wealth management is having better success in attracting new clients and money outside the United States, said the bank’s chief financial officer, Kit Gardner, in a conference call to discuss earnings. In the Asia – Pacific region, it reported $31 billion of net new money in 2019.

“In the Americas, there were two large outflows which contributed to the negative net new money result, although these were very low margin,” Mr. Gardner said. “We remain confident in our ability to generate net new money growth. However, as [CEO Sergio Ermotti] highlighted, we will continue to focus on quality and more specifically on the profitability and resource efficiency of existing invested assets and net flows.”

The Swiss bank has been cutting jobs and reorganizing its global wealth management business as it focuses on ultra-wealthy clients. The overarching goal is to trim management and increase resources, such as planning and banking, that its financial advisers can use with clients.

UBS reported 6,549 financial advisers at the end of 2019, a decline of 301, or 4.4%, year over year. Its advisers, however, generate high revenues, and the firm claims they lead the industry in that category. As of the fourth quarter, UBS advisers in the Americas generated, on average, $1.4 million in annual fees and commissions and had on average $214 million in client assets.

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