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UBS's Ermotti wants clarity at last on banking rules
May 4, 2017 / 9:39 AM / in 5 months

UBS's Ermotti wants clarity at last on banking rules

CEO Ermotti of Swiss bank UBS reacts after his speech during the annual shareholder meeting in Basel, Switzerland May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) - UBS Group AG (UBSG.S) Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti urged global regulators to clarify new banking rules, complaining they were still being debated almost a decade on from the outbreak of the financial crisis.

“It is right that banks are expected to think and act long term. But this is almost impossible without stable and finalised regulations,” Ermotti said in a speech at UBS’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

“Almost 10 years on from the financial crisis, and there is still no clarity on this issue. And it helps neither us nor the economy at large to keep banks in the penalty box.”

He joined a chorus of calls from European bankers to hit the pause button on new rules from watchdogs.

Since the 2007-09 financial crisis - which caused a global recession and led to government bailouts for many big banks, including UBS - regulators have been working to toughen capital requirements and tackle the problem of banks being too big to fail.

Banks have dubbed the remaining capital rules “Basel IV”, meaning a step change in capital on Basel III rules, as Basel IV aims to iron out big differences in the way banks assess risks from loans, a key calculation that determines the size of their capital buffers.

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

However, the completion of Basel IV has been on hold pending changes in U.S. regulatory officials by President Donald Trump’s new administration. Bankers say they don’t expect progress until at least the second half of the year.

Since 2007 UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank and the world’s largest private bank by assets, has cut the size of its balance sheet from 2.5 trillion Swiss francs ($2.52 trillion) to 935 billion, Ermotti said, adding that lower regulatory and legal costs could allow UBS to increase payouts to shareholders.

Slideshow (4 Images)

UBS has incurred 3.9 billion Swiss francs in costs since 2012 to cover legal fees and new regulations.

UBS shareholders comfortably voted in favor of the proposed compensation for the executive management team and board of directors, in contrast to shareholder opposition at last week’s investor meeting for rival Credit Suisse (CSGN.S).

Credit Suisse investors spoke out against the decision to pay management millions in bonuses despite losing 2.7 billion francs last year. UBS reported a net profit of 3.3 billion francs.

“Compared with Credit Suisse, which had a loss, it really is very positive,” said retail investor Hermann Struchen, who also spoke at Credit Suisse’s AGM. “I talked differently at Credit Suisse.”

Additional reporting by Angelika Gruber; Editing by Michael Shields and Susan Fenton

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