Sergio Ermotti, chief executive officer of UBS Group
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images
UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti on Wednesday said people with concerns about the size of the bank’s balance sheet are getting “indoctrinated” by academics and should “do their homework.”
UBS completed its takeover of Credit Suisse in June 2023 after an emergency rescue deal was brokered by Swiss authorities to prevent the then 167-year-old institution’s collapse and protect the Swiss economy.
Ermotti was brought back to the helm of UBS to oversee the complex integration of Credit Suisse’s business — a mission thus far deemed a resounding success by the market. The bank’s share price has recovered from below 17 Swiss francs ($19.69) per share in the aftermath of the deal to over 25 Swiss francs as of Wednesday morning.
However, the new entity’s combined balance sheet is estimated to be around twice the size of the entire GDP of Switzerland, raising concerns about the concentration of risk in the Swiss economy.
Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Ermotti said he understood why some portions of the Swiss population still have reservations, as they are being “indoctrinated almost daily by a lot of academics” and focusing solely on the size of the bank’s balance sheet versus the national GDP.
“If you look at risk-weighted assets as a percentage of GDP or as a percentage of our balance sheet, you will discover that the new UBS is de facto very low risk, very focused business model. The risk we have is in Swiss mortgages, in Lombard loans, in stuff that is very low risk,” he said.
Ermotti contended that the “new UBS” incorporating its fallen rival to create a globally competitive, low-risk bank is a “reflection of Switzerland.”
“Switzerland is a small country that punches well above its weight in many sectors — in food, in pharma, in innovation — and having a strong bank that can compete, not only in Europe, but globally, is part of our economy,” he said.
He also argued that the focus on the risk to the Swiss taxpayer fails to take into account the scale of the bank’s own tax contributions, urging the public to “look at the risks but also the benefits.”
“In that sense, our role is to help the people who are not convinced, that want to listen to arguments, to inform them so that they come to an opinion that is informed, hopefully the right one. I respect people having other opinions, but I do expect them to do their homework,” he added.