The wonders of working for UBS

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It's lost a packet on dodgy trades, 'shaken up' its prop trading division, and plans to pay high stock bonuses. Who wants to work there?

Lots of people, according to everything we've ever written on UBS. Once when we addressed the subject a loyal employee declared himself willing to pledge his allegiance to the bank even if it didn't pay a bonus - which is fortunate, given this may well come to pass.

What's the source of such devotion? According to the comment-leaver, it's all down to the Swiss bank's work-life balance, but we've been doing a little digging and it appears there's more to it than that.

Part of the appeal appears to be the presence of old people. "I joined from a US bank less than a year ago," says one bond trader, "and on my part of the floor there's a huge amount of experience that you just don't get at US houses, which churn and burn staff."

All those grey hairs apparently make for a 'friendlier' working environment and greater camaraderie. "It's a very, very nice place to work," he exudes.

The question is, therefore, can this niceness survive redundancies and a shake-up which includes a reduction in prop trading and the combination of debt and equity underwriting operations?

Nice no more

Maybe not. According to one headhunter who works with the bank, the culture in the all-important equities division is already changing for the worse: "Historically, they were all nice to each other, but that changed when Alex Easton left. It's become a lot more aggressive and commercial."

Jason Kennedy, managing director of search firm Kennedy Associates, says UBS is easier to pull people out of than it used to be: "There's been a shift - before, it was a nice place to work, people believed in the company, and the ethos was that you were at a top-tier firm that was not too aggressive and not too passive."

Since Peter Wuffli left in July, Kennedy says there's been a loss of morale: "And bonuses paid substantially in stock aren't going to help that."