| HONG KONG
HONG KONG UBS Group AG is cutting nearly two dozen jobs in its Asian investment banking business, mainly in Hong Kong and Singapore, as part of a push to slash costs, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The Swiss bank joins rivals in making investment banking cost cuts in Asia as deal volumes remain sluggish. The latest round of job cuts at UBS will be mostly mid-level staff but will also include a few managing directors, said the sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Wall Street banks are grappling with a harsh environment in Asia as the region's economies and markets have failed to deliver sustained growth after the 2008 financial crisis. The banks' business has also been eroded by local competitors, notably aggressive Chinese firms.
The total number of frontline investment bankers in Asia Pacific is estimated to drop about 15-20 percent this year versus a 5-10 percent fall last year, said John Mullally, director of financial services at headhunter Robert Walters in Hong Kong. "There's more to come early next year."
"You still have some banks who are clinging on in this region despite not producing the kind of revenue they need to produce, and there will be further realignment because of that next year," he added.
UBS' job cuts could involve as many as 20 bankers, one of the sources said. UBS has about 550 investment bankers in Asia including China - where it has a significant presence onshore via a joint venture operation - another source said.
A spokesman for UBS in Hong Kong declined to comment.
Equity activity in Asia ex-Japan stock exchanges slumped 30 percent in the first nine months of 2016 with $140.7 billion worth of deals, weighed down by a steep decline in follow-on share offerings, Thomson Reuters data showed.
After leading the equity capital market (ECM) league table in Asia for several years, UBS fell to fourth place in the first nine months of the year from second in the same period a year earlier, the data showed.
UBS co-head of ECM for Asia, Damien Brosnan, will leave the Swiss investment bank at the end of the month, Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported on Thursday.
Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Standard Chartered are among Western banks that have reduced their investment banking headcounts this year in Asia.
Reuters reported last month that Standard Chartered is set to cut about a tenth of its global corporate and institutional banking headcount across all major business centres, as the bank steps up an aggressive drive to cut costs.
In October, UBS, which is Asia's largest private bank in terms of assets under management, maintained its gloomy outlook amid negative interest rates in Switzerland and economic uncertainty which has kept many investors on the sidelines.
The bank netted 100 million Swiss francs ($97.30 million) in third-quarter savings, bringing total net cost cuts since 2013 to 1.5 billion francs. However, UBS said increased expenses from new banking sector regulations means it needs to find additional savings to achieve targeted net cost cuts of 2.1 billion Swiss francs by end-2017.
($1 = 1.0277 Swiss francs)
(Fiona Lau is a reporter for IFR; Additional reporting by Julie Zhu and Elzio Baretto in HONG KONG; Editing by Saeed Azhar, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Himani Sarkar)