UBS bankers may never need to travel again. In the conference call accompanying today's first quarter results, UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti said the bank had managed to contact a crazy number of clients while its staff were working virtually.
In the second quarter alone, Ermotti said UBS ran more than 50 livestreams which reached more than 45,000 of the bank's clients and prospects. UBS was also able to activate functionality allowing investors to express their preferences during these streams, said Ermotti, the implication being that it was able to gather valuable marketing information in the process.
Ermotti may even have been understating the success of connecting with clients virtually: in the presentation accompanying today's results, the bank says it actually reached 180,000 clients through events run by its chief investment office (CIO) in the first half of 2020.
UBS's CIO events are more for its wealth management clients than for institutional investors or corporates. However, UBS's success in making client contact virtual rather than physical helps explain why the bank only plans for 66% of its staff (max) to return to its offices at any one time in future. - Working virtually can be far more efficient.
It's unlikely, however, that this will apply equally to UBS's M&A bankers. Two years ago, UBS was demanding that its managing directors (MDs) in M&A and underwriting needed to achieve 300 face to face meetings with clients each year. In theory, this kind of thing could be avoided post-pandemic by encouraging M&A bankers to communicate with clients virtually as well. In reality, however, bankers everywhere have been complaining that it's hard to get clients to commit when you're not breathing on them. The 23% decline in UBS's M&A revenues in the first half of 2020 might also discourage the Swiss bank from allowing its M&A bankers to rely heavily on Zoom forever.
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