(Bloomberg) — UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said the Swiss bank’s wealth clients are staying invested while holding back from putting new funds to work because of the uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine and energy crisis.
Hamers expects greater clarity on the direction of markets within the next three months as the world comes to terms with the aftershocks of the pandemic and the situation in China, as well as soaring energy prices and the Russian invasion, he said in a Bloomberg TV interview from Davos on Tuesday.
“We had to digest 3 major shocks: the pandemic shock, the war shock and the energy transition shock,” Hamers said. “Supply shocks and demand shocks all mixed in one. So of course it is unclear at this moment in time.”
Global investors are jittery as markets navigate a world of rising interest rates, soaring inflation and the impact of China’s strict Covid policies on the global economy. Hamers said clients aren’t so much worried about what’s coming “it’s just they don’t know what’s coming.”
Navigating sanctions against Russian individuals has been challenging for banks, which were left with limited guidance for implementing various demands, Hamers said. Lenders had to juggle understanding both what sanctions meant and also complying. “It has become much clearer in the last couple of weeks compared to the beginning where it had been developed in a haphazard way,” Hamers said.
Earlier this year, former Chairman Axel Weber said that he sees no future for many international banks in Russia even if there’s a cease-fire, as the Swiss bank began winding down its business there.
The bank is aiming to keep growing in Asia and in the U.S., where it sees the best potential for wealth creation.
UBS bought robo-adviser Wealthfront in the U.S. earlier this year in a bid to further digitize the bank, lower costs and compete with Wall Street banks. The bank has a sizeable position in the U.S., according to Hamers who said “we are as much of a U.S. player as we are a Swiss player.” Asked if UBS could take on Wall Street titans, he said “on the wealth side for sure, absolutely.”
Hamers believes that banking deals in Europe, and specifically in the Eurozone, remain difficult.
“As long as the local authorities sit on the capital and on the liquidity, there’s not a lot of benefit for cross-border consolidation in the Eurozone,” he said.