Technology could help UBS cut workforce by 30 percent: CEO in magazine

FILE PHOTO: CEO Sergio Ermotti of Swiss bank UBS awaits the annual shareholder meeting in Basel, Switzerland May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss bank UBS UBSG.S could shed almost 30,000 workers in the years ahead due to technological advances in the banking industry, Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said in a magazine interview.

Ermotti told Bloomberg Markets that “process-oriented” companies see scope to cut workforces in half through new technology but he believed the true number for banks was around half that.

“If you look at UBS, we employ a meaningful amount of people— almost 95,000, including contractors,” Ermotti said. “You can have 30 percent less, but the jobs are going to be much more interesting jobs, where the human content is crucial to the delivery of the service.”

Ermotti said the coming decade would be heavily influenced by technology, as the previous one was marked by regulation.

“It’s not the Big Bang; it’s going to be very gradual,” he said. “But you’re going to be faster — much more efficient, proficient. Instead of serving 50 clients, you’ll be able to serve 100 and in a more sophisticated way.”

Consultancy Accenture ACN.N said in May that three quarters of bankers surveyed believed artificial intelligence (AI) will become the primary way banks interact with their customers within the next three years.

AI -- the technology behind driverless cars, drones and voice-recognition software -- is seen by the financial world as a key technology which, along with other innovations such as blockchain, will change banking.

Reporting by Joshua Franklin