Swiss banking giant UBS to reportedly offer rich clients crypto investments

UBS Group AG is exploring various ways to offer its wealthy clients the possibility of investing in digital assets, anonymous sources claim. A new report from BNN Bloomberg suggests that investment opportunities in crypto will remain limited to “a very small portion of the clients’ total wealth” due to concerns over the volatility of the cryptocurrency markets. 

Sources familiar with the Swiss firm’s plans suggest that investments in digital assets via third-party investment vehicles could be one of the options open to clients. None of the sources have agreed to be identified due to the private nature of UBS’ plans, which reportedly remain in their early stages. 

UBS CEO Ralph Hamers, who replaced Sergio Ermotti in 2020 to the surprise of many, has a reputation for being strong on digitalization and automation. Hamers was CEO at ING Group from 2013 to 2020, where his record was mixed. 

Many lauded his modernization and profitability drive yet also criticized his tenure after the bank was charged with allowing hundreds of millions of euros to be laundered via its accounts between 2010 and 2016. The bank’s 775-million euro penalty in 2018 for compliance failures was the highest ever imposed on a company by the public prosecution service in the Netherlands.

Now tasked with axing costs and trying to galvanize UBS’ revenues, he has this year stressed the need to meet “clients’ digital expectations,” particularly in the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. A critic of central banks’ loose monetary policies, Hamers is focusing on technology investments at UBS and has shifted to a quarterly allocation to technology projects as opposed to the firm’s previous strategy of fixed funding on an annual basis. 

He has also been an advocate of using artificial intelligence to better understand clients’ demands and is prioritizing the digitization of execution platforms and services at UBS’ investment bank and improving digital services more broadly.

Bloomberg’s sources have alleged that UBS is concerned it will lose clients if it does not step up to offer them investment opportunities in digital assets. Prior to UBS, the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and BNY Mellon all deepened their involvement in the digital assets sphere this year.

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