It was Kweku Adoboli who did it. The ex-public school boy, ex-head boy, charming, articulate, likable son of a United Nations diplomat, defrauded UBS with what the prosecutor described as, “carefully crafted, deliberate, detailed and sophisticated lies.”
Naive and trusting, UBS warmed to Kweku and promoted him repeatedly – to trader in 2005, associate director in 2008 and director in 2010. His compensation rose erratically – from £95k in 2007, to £65k in 2008, and then to a sudden £195k in 2009 and £360k in 2010. Adoboli was ‘a star’ said Detective Inspector Perry Stokes of the City of London Police: “He believed he was going to reach the heights within UBS and his colleagues thought the same. His supervisors, seniors, managers, they all saw him as one for the future.”
Now that Adoboli’s been sent to prison for 7 years on two counts of fraud, UBS has been left looking a little gullible. One of Adoboli’s ex-colleagues in UBS’s operations department complained to us that the bank was taken in early by Adoboli’s superficial charms. “He was golden boy – perfect accent, dad high up in UN, ticked boxes, more schmoozer than worker, a brown-noser, who played the game!” he alleges.
Thanks to its SG Warburg heritage, UBS was historically known as being a pleasant and gentlemanly bank in the City. Until 2007 it was home to the likes of Ken Costa, a prominent Christian. “In the past, money wasn’t the main factor when people joined UBS,” says Jason Kennedy at search firm Kennedy Group. “People joined for the name, its culture and its client franchise. UBS was a homegrown business – most of its senior management joined at graduate level and were promoted up. ”
Adoboli himself reflected this. He joined the bank in 2002 and stayed there faithfully until his misdemeanors became apparent. UBS was like a family, said Adoboli, who was “devastated that my friends lost their jobs”.
However, Adoboli also attempted to argue that UBS’s cosy culture changed in 2011, when he said the bank became much more aggressive in its attempts to make money. He alleged that Yassine Bouhara, who was recruited from Deutsche as co-head of global equities in May 2010, visited the ETF desk and said: ‘I’m watching your book. You’re going to double our profit and loss.” Bouhara resigned as co-head of equities at UBS in October 2011, but according to his own LinkedIn profile, he was still employed by the bank as global CEO of emerging markets in April 2012. Bouhara now simply describes himself as an ‘investment banking professional’ in the UAE.
Kennedy is also of the opinion that the historic happy culture at UBS is no more. “After 2008, the culture at UBS changed due to the rapid firing of senior management and the hiring in of new staff from different banks. At the same time, a lot of promises related to compensation were never met and morale plummeted,” he says.
“After 2008 UBS changed from tame to a killer, the culture broke,” alleges another headhunter.
UBS has declared itself “glad” that Adoboli’s been found guilty. It will undoubtedly be hoping to move on with the ‘strategic acceleration from a position of strength’ (also known as the 10,000 redundancies and fixed income restructuring) it announced a few weeks ago. However, the harsh manner in which UBS’s London staff were informed of their redundancies, juxtaposed with Sergio Ermotti’s empty promise ensure they’re “supported and treated with care,” suggests that even with Kweku out of the way UBS won’t go back to being a nice gentlemanly place to work.