Persistent fund outflows at Swiss banking giant UBS have been a concern for some time. In the bank’s latest set of results, the problem appears to be getting worse, with net fund outflows at the wealth management unit accelerating sharply in the fourth quarter of 2009. (Full analysis can be found at this blog’s parent site; subscription required.)

Tax amnesties or the threat of forced repatriation have led many clients to withdraw funds from UBS’s storied Swiss private bank. For example, an Italian tax amnesty on undeclared funds accounted for a quarter of the outflow at the bank’s Swiss franchise in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, a Swiss court’s refusal to transfer account information for some UBS clients to the US tax authorities threatens to reopen a thorny case the bank settled with Washington in the summer.

In its latest letter to shareholders, the bank’s management described 2009 as a “transformative” year. After so much change, shareholders must now decide whether they like what UBS has become.

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