Curt Custard, head of global investment solutions at UBS Global Asset Management, is “very, very disappointed” with his investment banking colleagues. Perhaps even a little mad.
But he displays similar sentiments toward US Republican presidential candidates, politicians in general, Europe and John Maynard Keynes.
At UBS asset management “nobody is as frustrated as ourselves as to what went on in investment banking” at UBS AG, says Custard.
A UBS colleague interjects. Perhaps Custard means he is disappointed with the investment banking profession, not just those at UBS.
But Custard makes clear he means to criticise his own colleagues.
“We’re very, very disappointed,” he says.
UBS has been beset by scandal. Last year the bank found that London-based Kweku Adoboli, through unauthorised trades, generated a US$2.3 billion loss for Zurich-based UBS. Adoboli has been arrested and held in jail without bail.
In August 2008, UBS settled charges in New York it misled customers when it sold them what it described as nearly risk-free auction-rate securities even as UBS executives knew the market was cratering. After the market froze, investors were unable to sell the securities. Regulators sued. UBS agreed to repay US$19.4 billion and pay a US$150 million fine.
In May 2011 UBS agreed to pay US$160 million and admitted that its employees had conspired to rig bids in the municipal bond derivatives market. UBS had a prominent role in recent tax evasion cases by wealthy Americans.
Custard says how investment banking traditionally has does business must change.
“There are incentives to do a deal,” he says. “Those incentives have to change. Our organisation has to change in how we compensate people to ensure” long-term relationships with clients, Custard adds.
And those cast off from Wall Street?
“I have no sympathy with people in our industry who have to re-set their standard of living,” says Custard. “I’m never going to make what I used to.”
Reporters listening to Custard were mute. Perhaps they were embarrassed to ask, given their own compensation, what Custard’s previous base salary and bonus used to be.
Asset management personnel at UBS have a portion of their bonuses deferred over three years. The bonuses are invested in vehicles linked to funds that the firm manages . This scheme was introduced in 2009.
Custard moved onto other topics.
He decries Europe as a “rich, aging demographic that doesn’t want a lot of change.”
Politicians generally “kick the can down the road” and don’t confront problems until there is a crises, says Custard.
Republican presidential candidates have torn into each other in their primaries to the extent he doesn’t think they are electable, says Custard.
“Occupy Wall Street wants equality between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent but have offered no solution,” he says.
Custard says the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street disciples both wear “crazy hats.”
The U.S. recovery is due, in part, to “animal spirits,” he says. Keynesian economics is, if not dead, then in terminal decline, says Custard.