April 19, 2018 / 2:37 PM / in 7 months

UBS to lead European cross-border business from Switzerland

(Refiles April 19 story to clarify description of northern European markets with looser cross-border regulations)

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at a branch office in Zurich, Switzerland January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Angelika Gruber

ZURICH (Reuters) - UBS will centralize its European cross-border wealth management business and run it out of Switzerland from June, the latest step within a series of reshuffles since merging its flagship business under one global unit this year.

The world’s largest wealth manager will handle cross-border business for western Europe out of two regional units to help adapt the offshore business to differing regulations, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

“The separation between Europe International North and South allows us to take strategic decisions based on market access regulations, which are tighter in southern Europe than in the north,” the bank’s new head of wealth management for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Christine Novakovic, said in the memo sent on Thursday.

Many wealthy European clients seek to book money not only in their home country but also through additional accounts booked in Switzerland, the world’s largest center for offshore wealth.

In some countries, foreign bankers may travel to court new clients or make visits to existing customers on their home turf.

But countries such as Italy, Spain and France impose tighter restrictions than several important northern European markets against cross-border visits and marketing, meaning banks focus more on attracting offshore clients from these countries who already have a Swiss bank account.

Novakovic will directly oversee the southern unit —including Italy, Iberia, France and the Benelux — on an interim basis, while Sonia Goessi will lead the northern unit, consisting of cross-border business from Germany, Austria, Britain, the Nordics and Netherlands.

The bank will reintegrate its business for so-called affluent clients — private banking customers with under 2 million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) managed by the bank — into the same organizational structure as its high net worth clients, in order to help boost business as their assets grow.

Editing by Michael Shields

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