UBS says it allows staff to travel ‘freely’ to China after banker’s departure delayed

HONG KONG (Reuters) – UBS (UBSG.S) allows all its staff to travel “freely in and out” of China and it is business as usual there, the Swiss bank said, after local authorities last week asked one of its bankers to delay her departure from Beijing to meet with officials.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at the company’s headquarters in Zurich, February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

That move by the Chinese authorities led to UBS asking its wealth management staff to reconsider any travel plans to China, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Saturday.

“UBS would like to confirm that we allow all our staff to travel freely in and out of the country and it is business as usual for us in China,” the bank said in a statement issued to Reuters on Tuesday.

“UBS has had a strong franchise in China for 30 years and remains fully committed to further developing our business on the mainland.”

The Singapore-based UBS banker, who is a client relationship manager in the wealth management unit, was last week asked to delay departure from Beijing and remain in China to meet with local authority officials this week. Her identity was not known.

While the purpose of the banker’s meeting with authorities is not clear and UBS has declined to comment on the matter, the uncertainty led several of its rivals to ask private banking staff to reconsider trips to China.

Their caution highlighted the risks involved for global private banks in pursuing what is arguably the biggest opportunity worldwide in the wealth management business.

China is the biggest growth driver of the wealth industry in Asia with its large and growing pool of millionaires and billionaires spawned by the country’s booming technology sector, making it a key battleground for global private banks.

But its financial sector is under sharp scrutiny as Beijing attempts to lower high debt levels in the economy and curb an outflow of capital from the country to shore up the yuan, meaning there is very little room for error by industry players.

Reporting by Jennifer Hughes and Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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