It was just 12 months ago that John Costas, the man running UBS's investment banking division, was rather down about the prospects for the industry. At that time he said that, given the then economic uncertainty and spate of corporate scandals which were hitting the news almost daily, times would remain tough for some while. According to Reuters, he mused that 'it becomes very difficult to become tremendously optimistic with regard to the markets over the next year.....It will take, given the current outlook, four or five years to regain the type of activity we saw just 18 months ago'. Now, it seems, Costas has somewhat changed his tune. His has also given a bit of a hint about staff bonus levels.
Speaking to journalists in London earlier this week, Costas was more bullish. Although he said that current market activity is some way off the 1999 / 2000 peak, he is certainly more upbeat about his firm's prospects. Costas said that 'I'm pretty optimistic across all businesses,' adding that he'd already seen evidence of a rebound in the US, Europe and Asia.
The UBS man was also upbeat about bonus levels for 2003. He is said to have confirmed that this year's numbers will better than those for 2001 and 2002. A word of caution, though. Costas also said that UBS was under pressure from shareholders to provide good returns. Staff should therefore temper their bonus expectations, in the knowledge that shareholders, too, will expect their pound of flesh this year.