Letter From A UBS Staffer - 'I Felt Physically Sick'

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UBS - London

'Most of us didn't have a clue that our world was about to be rocked (again). Sure, when you look back on the events of late last week, you might think you noticed a few more senior people than usual running around with pained expressions and fear etched on their faces, but we'd have just put that down to these troubled times - everyone here already knew that revenues were under pressure, jobs were at risk and bonus payouts were going to be hard to come by this year-end.

We all knew that the bank planned to make another major announcement about the future of the investment bank in a few weeks time, and many feared that that future might not include a place for them. But very few of us thought for one moment that UBS would fall victim to a rogue trader, particularly at this time, when we felt comfortable that management had a firm handle on risk, and we were confident that, as far as possible, the executive team had successfully righted the ship and started us on the long voyage of recovery we knew was ahead.

Then word began to seep out about some difficulties on a trading desk, slowly at first, and before long it was confirmed in an official announcement that a trader had been arrested, and that we were looking at a big unauthorised trading loss - one which would probably account for all of our third-quarter profits.

And the impact that this news had was fairly dramatic. If there is such a thing a corporate shock, then this was it. I saw a couple of people actually cry, and a colleague of mine, who worked at Enron, said it reminded him of how he felt 10 years or so ago, when that company filed for bankruptcy. It wasn't that bad at UBS, of course, but it felt like it - and mostly because many of us had worked so very hard, and defied the critics, by starting to make the big turnaround here actually happen. Frankly, the alleged actions of trader Kweku Adoboli, and the failures of those tasked with supervising his activities, were a real kick between the legs. I felt physically sick.

What the future holds now is anyone's guess. Emotions remain pretty raw, as we await how this episode will play out and what the consequences (and there will be consequences) will eventually be.

But one of the really difficult things to come to terms with is the fact that one person can really screw such a lot of things up, and have such a profound effect on the personal and professional lives of so many of us - especially at a place like UBS, where teamwork and working together is much more a part of the culture than it is at rival firms (and I've worked in a few).

Many of us are gutted, and still feel numb. We are going about our jobs on auto-pilot, trying to get our heads back together, desperately wanting to move forward; hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.

Management are clearly doing their best to keep our spirits up, and that is appreciated. But, in the end, it is about actions, not words. Now is the time for clear and determined leadership. Oswald Gruebel and (perhaps less so) Carsten Kengeter haven't lost the support of the general body of staff here. But their jobs have just become significantly more difficult, as we look to them to once again help pick us up, dust us down and provide us with the energy and enthusiasm to begin again the difficult task we had successfully started so recently before.

Let's hope they are both given the chance to deliver, and that most of us will also be around to help them do so'.


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