UBS urges delay on new Swiss capital rules

City A.M. Reporter
UBS has called for a year's delay to stringent new Swiss capital rules to allow more clarity on international regulation, while vowing to keep its headquarters in Switzerland.

Chairman Kaspar Villiger told the bank's annual shareholders' meeting that UBS was not threatening to relocate abroad, but wanted to highlight the risks of tightening rules ahead of other states.

"It is ... not clear why Switzerland needs to rush ahead with legislation before we have a better idea of what is really happening internationally. Even in just one year's time we would have a much better idea," he said.

"It is precisely because we are committed to Switzerland as a financial centre... that we are trying, despite all the criticism, to avoid unnecessarily weakening Switzerland."

UBS chief executive Oswald Gruebel has said stiff Swiss capital standards - which the government sent to parliament last week and hopes to get be approved this year - could force the bank to move units abroad.

Several Swiss shareholders at the AGM expressed anger that UBS could suggest leaving the country after the government bailed out the bank at the height of the financial crisis.

"I am glad we are having this AGM in Switzerland and not in the Bahamas or Panama City," joked author and bank critic Rene Zeyer. "They have learned nothing, understood nothing. It's full speed ahead into the next catastrophe."

The bank had reported first-quarter earnings on Tuesday which showed money pouring back into its core wealth management arm, while its struggling investment bank did better than expected

"I am confident that the remarkable financial improvement that we have achieved in the last two years is sustainable," Gruebel said, adding UBS should stay "independent and Swiss".

Gruebel said the "too big to fail" reform was an emotional topic and admitted UBS had sometimes adopted the wrong tone in the debate, but said the bank should not be silent on the subject just because of the mistakes it made in the past.

"If Switzerland is the only country to place a disproportionate burden on its big banks, it could lose some of the prosperity it has gained," he said.