Profit up 21% for UBS' Asia-Pacific unit in record showing last year

Swiss bank UBS' buoyant Asia-Pacific results came as it reported its best annual group results since the global financial crisis. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Asia-Pacific unit of Swiss bank UBS enjoyed record results last year, with all its business units turning in robust performances.

Profit before tax for the division rose 21 per cent to US$2.6 billion (S$3.5 billion) in the 12 months to Dec 31 last year, while revenue increased 9 per cent to US$6.5 billion compared with 2020.

This came as expenses rose only 2 per cent to US$3.8 billion.

Asia-Pacific turnover increased US$29 million to US$606 million in the fourth quarter, driven by higher recurring net fee and net interest income.

The buoyant regional results came as the Swiss bank reported its best annual group results since the global financial crisis.

UBS announced last week that the group's net profit for 2021 jumped 14 per cent to US$7.5 billion, its best result since 2006 and one that beat analyst consensus estimates.

The cost-income ratio in the Asia-Pacific surpassed that of other regions, coming in 3.1 percentage points lower than a year earlier at 59.3 per cent.

This was lower than the 79.2 per cent reported in the Americas, 60.5 per cent in Switzerland and 79.9 per cent in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Lower ratios generally indicate higher efficiency.

Mr Edmund Koh, president of UBS Asia-Pacific, noted that all business segments contributed significantly to the record year for the bank's regional arm.

"Looking ahead, we continue to be the bank for entrepreneurs, especially with the rise of the technological unicorns in South-east Asia. With the rise of the new economy, we expect Asia to be a sweet spot for future growth and a strategic priority for UBS," he said.

UBS is the largest wealth manager in the region by assets under management.

The bank has outlined five focus areas for its Asia-Pacific operations: accelerate growth in China; develop its environmental, social and corporate governance ecosystem; expand its new economy business; strengthen its presence in South-east Asia; and enhance its advisory platform.

Its strategic update released last week noted that it aims to be the leading bank for family offices, tech firms and entrepreneurs in South-east Asia, and to become the top sustainable finance institution in the Asia-Pacific.

UBS said last October that it wants to build a digitally scalable advice model for wealthy clients in the United States, as it seeks to broaden its customer base beyond its traditional super high-net-worth clients.

Earlier this year, UBS agreed to buy US digital wealth management start-up Wealthfront in a US$1.4 billion deal as part of moves to target younger tech-savvy investors in the US.

UBS last year marked its 50th anniversary in Singapore and moved into its new office at 9 Penang Road near Dhoby Ghaut.

The 400,000 sq ft office, which accommodates around 3,000 employees, is the bank's largest centre in the region.

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