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  1. Wealth
October 18, 2010

The Titan Stirs

By Spear's

UBS has done some extraordinary things in the last few weeks.

UBS has done some extraordinary things in the last few weeks. The bank was, by all measures, the Titan of global wealth. Now the Titan is stirring and two big plays are in motion. These both deserve comment.

First, as many of you, dear readers, will be seeing, there is a new UBS global advertising campaign rolling out. It might even be in the printed edition of Spear’s or on the nice banner’s adorning the Spear’s website. It’s pretty slick stuff in my view (the new slogan is below), but just in case it crossed your mind, I didn’t design it. Saying that, your reactions to it would be very interesting. Feel free to add something as you see fit. Click here to see the new UBS advert

Second, the bank publicly released an internal Transparency Report on the financial crisis (2007-2009) and US cross-border Wealth Management (2000-2007) debacles. I will not regurgitate the detail but it is a awesome reading to the geek-girl in me. I’ve been thumbing through it while in Cape Town with a marvelous glass of red in hand…

In essence the bank lays itself pretty bare. There is a quite profound recognition of institutional errors that affected not only shareholders but Switzerland’s reputation. There is very little blustering about how the Swiss government has sold its rescue-investment at a profit; which could have been a stonewalling option.

Thirdly, the bank is  pretty clear about why it isn’t going to prosecute individuals. Now, this might draw some flak for being timed so close of Jerome Kerviel’s trial (and quite comical verdict) in France but it is a prudent move. The old “see-no-evil” rhyme jumped into my mind as I read it. But also on a practical level what has been done can’t be undone.

The bottom line is that this is all smart stuff. Some will understand how much the Swiss were shocked and genuinely angry that UBS had become the standard bearer for what was wrong in finance during 2008. In all seriousness it is an odd sight to see a Swiss person (banker or layman) get angry. It is like a British man with fashion sense. It just wasn’t Swiss to get something so monumentally wrong. It was a Black Swan.

So I will go out on a limb. UBS has read the moment right. Furthermore, the Transparency Report, and the timing of its release alongside the new marketing campaign, is a masterstroke.

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