July 21, 2020 / 9:53 AM / 14 days ago

UBS CEO says authorities 'may or may not' have made Hong Kong client demands

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss bank UBS (UBSG.S) is not adjusting its Hong Kong business policies in relation to China’s new national security law, Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti said on Tuesday.

Reuters on Monday reported that global wealth managers including UBS were examining whether clients in Hong Kong had ties to the city’s pro-democracy movement, in an attempt to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of China’s law.

Ermotti said the bank did not pick sides in any political disputes, whether between China and Hong Kong or in the United States. Any client actions taken by the bank were focussed on adhering to any necessary regulations and anti-money laundering or sanctions rules, he said.

“I don’t want to comment on media speculations about what we are doing. We are very focused in serving all our clients in Asia,” Ermotti told journalists when asked about the report.

“In respect to sanctions, we may or may not have had to take action with respect to concrete demands by governments or regulators. We are not initiating on our own any initiatives, no matter which of the parties is involved.”

He said he did not expect any major reduction of client activity related to the tensions between China and Hong Kong, adding strong growth in the region’s profit during the last quarter served to assuage concern.

“In the last few weeks, we haven’t really seen any major impact on client activity per se. I would say that we are monitoring the situation carefully as clients are doing the same,” Ermotti told analysts and journalists after presenting the bank’s second-quarter results. “But I don’t really expect any major contraction.”

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields

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