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UBS broker chief McCann: no plans for split, name change

NEW YORK, March 31 (Reuters) -- UBS Wealth Management Americas will not change its name back to PaineWebber, nor will it split off from the embattled Swiss banking giant, the unit’s top executive told UBS brokers on Wednesday.

Still there are plenty of changes ahead for the fourth-largest U.S. brokerage, wealth management chief Robert McCann told brokers during a town hall meeting. Most significantly, McCann said he intends to focus UBS UBSN.VXUBS.N efforts on attracting wealthy and ultra wealthy clients, a UBS spokeswoman said.

Speaking to brokers at the wealth management unit’s Weehawken, New Jersey, headquarters and by telephone, McCann for the first time since joining UBS in October laid out a blueprint for how he intends to restore confidence in a bank slammed by credit losses and more recently a U.S. tax-fraud scandal.

As record numbers of brokers jumped ship last year, UBS was one of the hardest hit.

McCann, reiterating his goal to generate 1 billion Swiss francs ($950 million) in annual pretax profit within the next three to five years, said UBS will concentrate resources on high net worth clients, those with $1 million to $10 million of investable assets, and on ultra high net work, those with more than $10 million.

UBS will not abandon customers with less than $1 million, the spokeswoman said, but the bank will devote less resources there.

Likewise UBS will invest more in fast-growing metropolitan areas, and spend less on branches in more rural areas. McCann also said he thought UBS had the right sized brokerage force at roughly 7,000 advisers, despite the fact that Merrill BAC.N and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney MS.N now have twice as many brokers.

UBS acquired New York based Paine Webber Group in 2000 at the peak of the tech stock boom, but the business never quite lived up to expectations. McCann has faced speculation that UBS would pull the plug by selling or spinning off the unit, and some critics contend the business would do better under the old PaineWebber name.

McCann has surrounded himself with a number of former colleagues from Merrill Lynch, where he ran what was the largest U.S. brokerage for five years. UBS, which recently announced 200 layoffs in headquarters staff, would redirect more resources to improving technology and will develop more banking products for brokerage clients. ($1=1.053 Swiss Franc) (Editing by Lincoln Feast)