UBS CEO expects to keep strong London presence in event of Brexit - paper

ZURICH, March 8 (Reuters) - Swiss bank UBS expects to maintain a significant presence in London even if Britain leaves the European Union, Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti told a German newspaper.

Britons will vote in a referendum on June 23, and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned last week that rival European financial centres were looking to capture business from London in the event of a ‘Brexit’.

“We have 10,500 employees in Europe, of which 5,500 are in London,” Ermotti told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung when asked about the consequences of an ‘Out’ vote for Zurich-based UBS.

“I expect that we would keep a strong presence but that depends on a lot of factors which today are not yet clear.”

Ermotti said the decisive factor would be how Britain’s relationship with the EU was redrawn, but added that this could take at least two years after the vote to resolve.

A Brexit would not have any significant, direct consequences for UBS, Ermotti said. Recent polls point towards a narrow vote in favour of Britain remaining in the EU.

Ermotti also said UBS would decide on where to locate its headquarters for a new European bank by the end of 2016, and that Germany was being considered. The move is part of a plan to simplify the bank’s legal structure and put its European business under one roof.

Asked about German rival Deutsche Bank, Ermotti said its CEO John Cryan, UBS’s former finance chief, had the hardest job in banking at the moment.

Since taking the helm last year, Cryan has been working to refocus the bank and settle a slew of legal and regulatory troubles that have cost it billions of euros. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)