UBS: Definition, Bank History, Financial Services


Investopedia / Yurle Villegas

What Is UBS?

UBS, formerly known as the Union Bank of Switzerland, is a multinational diversified financial services company headquartered in Zurich and Basel. UBS is involved in virtually all major financial activities, including retail and commercial banking, investment banking, investment management, and wealth management.

UBS has a major presence around the globe and in the United States. It has its American headquarters in New York City. It operates in over 50 countries worldwide, with close to 60,000 employees.

Key Takeaways

  • UBS is a Swiss investment bank with global operations.
  • In March 2023, UBS (UBS) announced it would absorb Credit Suisse (CS) in a $2 billion all stock deal brokered by the government to prevent the latter embattled bank from failing.
  • The main divisions of UBS include investment & retail banking and asset & wealth management.
  • Its retail banking sector facilitates private Swiss bank accounts.
  • The company has approximately USD $3.2 trillion in assets under management.

UBS Explained

The name UBS is derived from one of its predecessor corporations, the Union Bank of Switzerland. The current UBS originated when the Union Bank of Switzerland merged with the Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998. Thus, UBS is now used as the company's official name and not as an acronym.

The UBS logo consists of three keys, a symbol taken from the Swiss Bank Corporation. The keys symbolize confidence, security, and discretion.

UBS’s Major Divisions

UBS has several major divisions, offering products and services to numerous clients. These divisions include wealth management, asset management, investment banking, and retail banking.

Wealth Management

UBS wealth management covers both high net worth and ultra-high net-worth individuals. The division’s financial advisors work with clients to understand the breadth of their financial and other assets and develop tailored solutions to meet their needs. Financial advisors may specialize in services, such as investment management, income tax preparation, or estate planning.

Asset Management

The investment aim of UBS asset management is to “deliver superior investment performance and client service.” Asset management differs from wealth management in that it can also describe managing collective investments (such as a pension fund) in addition to overseeing individual assets. For this reason, some deem asset management to encompass wealth management.

UBS has more than CHF 2.8 trillion in invested assets in 2022 and is the largest bank in Switzerland.

Investment Banking

UBS investment bank is considered one of the bulge bracket banks, along with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Barclays, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank.

Investment banks underwrite new debt and equity securities for all types of corporations, aid in the sale of these securities, and help to facilitate mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, and broker trades for institutions and private investors. At times, investment banks also provide guidance to issuers regarding the issue and placement of stock.

Retail Banking

UBS retail banking is what many traditionally view as mass-market banking, wherein individual customers use the local branches of larger commercial banks. Other examples of retail banks include Citibank and T.D. Bank.

UBS retail bank offers savings and checking accounts, mortgages, personal loans, debit or credit cards, and certificates of deposit (CDs). The focus is on the individual consumer.

What Does UBS Stand For?

UBS is the acronym for Union Bank of Switzerland ("Union de Banques Suisses" or "Unione di Banche Svizzere" in French or Italian, respectively. In German, it's "Schweizerische Bankgesellschaft"). When Union Bank merged with Swiss Bank, the new entity took on the name UBS.

Is UBS a US Bank?

While UBS is based in Switzerland, it also operates as a licensed U.S. bank, headquartered in New York City and registered in Utah, known as UBS Bank USA.

What Does UBS Wealth Management Do?

UBS Wealth Management provides a range of financial planning services for individuals and businesses. These include portfolio management, market research, retirement planning, and educational planning.

The Bottom Line

UBS is a Swiss investment bank with global operations; it operates in more than 50 countries worldwide, with close to 60,000 employees. Its primary divisions include investment and retail banking, and asset and wealth management. This financial institution has a major presence in the United States, including at its American headquarters in New York City. The main divisions of UBS include investment & retail banking and asset & wealth management.

Article Sources
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  1. UBS. "Quarterly Reporting - UBS Group - AG," Page 10.

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