UBS PAIN: Losing Big Teams at Alarming Rate in 2020 – We Tell You Why

UBS brass has executed a cadre of missteps that is giving every large team in its firm ample reason to not only look elsewhere; but to protest with their feet and actually go elsewhere. Since the beginning of 2020 UBS (save one large private banking move) is a huge net loss leader across the wealth management recruiting landscape.

Take a look at a short list of teams (plus their revenue and assets) that have left the shrinking firm this year:

$6.5 MM UBS – St. Petersburg, FL
$8.1 MM UBS – Birmingham, AL
$5 MM UBS – Coral Gables, FL
$5 MM UBS – Houston, TX
$2.1 MM UBS – Beverly Hills, CA
$7.8 MM UBS – Washington DC
$3.5 MM UBS – Pittsburgh, PA
$5.7 MM UBS – San Francisco, CA
$3.1 MM UBS – Greenwich, CT

That’s nearly $50 MM in revenue that has vanished from UBS’ annual numbers in short order. And we left out several moves that would add to that total. So we ask why? Why is UBS literally hemorrhaging large teams? Some answers:

1. In early 2020 UBS leadership announced dramatic changes to the comp grid that would affect both teams and individual advisors. It was alarming. 20% increases had to be achieved to remain at your 2019 pay grade tiers. If those levels weren’t achieved, teams and advisors would see a 20% cut in real pay. Absurd.

In fact, it was so absurd that the outrage was immediate and visceral. UBS brass quickly backed off and gave advisors until mid-year to make up the difference. It’s mid-year BTW. The only thing that further delayed the incoming policy was COVID-19. It took a global pandemic to delay a grid hike unseen in the industry for two decades. Advisors know that it remains on the docket and could still be deployed at anytime – they aren’t waiting around to see when that happens.

2. Death by a thousand cuts. During the pandemic UBS asked their advisors to bonus admin staff to subsidize their pay. Really?? The market was crashing, clients were panicking, and the 150 year old Swiss bank you work for asks you to bonus the admin staff? Meanwhile, firms like Wells Fargo were happy to eat that ‘good will’ cost themselves. Instead of leaning in to partner with advisors and ‘essential’ staff, UBS leadership was almost distancing themselves from them.

3. Protocol exit and contract language. Another case of UBS attempting to take advantage of advisors and their efforts over the past decade (which, of course has kept the Swiss bank afloat). UBS exited the protocol in 2017 and on two separate occasions attempted to tie even more restrictive ‘non-contact, non-solicit’ language to new deferred awards. Again, the outrage was so loud and visceral that the firm backed off and returned to its initial protocol exit language. Still, smart advisors realize that the firm will keep making these attempts to restrict their industry freedom.

The bottom line here is this – the numbers don’t lie. UBS has a serious problem with its biggest and best advisors and teams. And the march to ‘greener pastures’ seems to be accelerating.

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