By John Revill
(Reuters) -UBS has been a net gainer in customer balances following its rescue of Credit Suisse, Chairman Colm Kelleher said on Wednesday, citing positive feedback from wealthy clients.
Bank mergers can sometimes lead to turbulence, with clients withdrawing their cash, although this tended to happen very quickly, Kelleher told a WSJ event in London, while some clients come back.
“We’re seeing a total slowdown in all that stuff,” Kelleher said, “And we’ve seen that UBS is a net gainer in its own right of balances and so on.
“I think the rot has stopped and we have clients coming back,” Kelleher added, saying feedback from Credit Suisse clients about UBS had so far been positive.
“At a stroke now in certain regions we are undisputed number 1. We were always number 1 in Asia, but we can now add South Asia Pacific.”
Some Asian clients had raised concerns about the write down to zero of Credit Suisse’s AT1 bonds in the rescue, but this was a matter for the Swiss regulator and not a UBS issue, Kelleher said.
“We’ve seen clients welcoming, they like the brand,” he said, adding the bank was attractive to high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals.
UBS meanwhile will be cautious about taking on investment banking staff from Credit Suisse following the merger of the two banks, Kelleher said.
UBS wanted to maintain its culture following the takeover of its stricken Swiss rival, he said, adding it was clear that the investment bank at Credit Suisse was “out of control.”
“We are worried about ‘cultural contamination’. We are going to have an incredibly high bar for who we bring in to UBS,” Kelleher said.
He reiterated that UBS did not want the tie-up, which was arranged hastily over one March weekend by the Swiss authorities to stave off a broader banking crisis.
UBS would significantly scale back the investment bank operations following the takeover, he said.
Credit Suisse’s other three businesses would prove much less problematic, he added, with its universal bank enjoying a strong reputation in Switzerland, while the asset management business was small enough to be easily absorbed.
Credit Suisse’s global wealth management business could also be integrated quite efficiently, he added, because the head of the UBS business – Iqbal Khan – previously lead it before switching to UBS.
UBS has said it aimed to finalise the deal in coming weeks while the full integration of Switzerland’s top two lenders could take three to four years.
“We will close the deal very shortly,” Kelleher said on Wednesday.
($1 = 0.8889 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by John RevillEditing byh Tomasz Janowski)