UBS warns staff over China travel after banker held in Beijing

The banker, who is based in Singapore, was asked to remain in China and meet with local authority officials next week. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Swiss bank UBS Group AG has asked its China wealth management staff to reconsider their travel plans to the country after the authorities there asked one of its bankers to delay her departure from Beijing to meet local officials, a person familiar with the matter said.

The banker, who is based in Singapore and works in the relationship management team in UBS's wealth management unit, still has her passport, but was asked to remain in China and meet local authority officials next week, the person said. The identity and position of the banker were not known.

The purpose of the meeting with the authorities is not clear, but the bank has asked others in its China wealth management team to review their travel plans carefully.

No other units in the bank, including back office or asset management teams, have been asked to reconsider existing travel plans.

A UBS spokesman declined to comment. The Swiss bank is the largest wealth manager operating in Asia, with US$383 billion (S$527.51 billion) of assets under management, according to Asian Private Banker magazine, ahead of Citigroup, Credit Suisse, HSBC and Julius Baer.

The meeting also comes as UBS has been building up its presence in China. Last week, it moved a step closer to becoming the first bank to take majority ownership of its China joint venture under new rules designed to open up the sector, when two of its current partners put their stakes up for sale.

Any deal on the stakes will need the approval of the Chinese authorities, who have yet to give the green light for the 51 per cent shareholding.

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