April 9, 2020 / 9:21 AM / 4 months ago

UBS executives pledge $5 million of own cash to coronavirus fight

ZURICH (Reuters) - Top managers at UBS (UBSG.S) will each contribute the equivalent of three months’ salary to fight the coronavirus, its chief executive Sergio Ermotti said on Thursday after the Swiss bank bowed to pressure to suspend its dividend.

FILE PHOTO: Swiss bank UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti addresses a news conference in Zurich, Switzerland February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Excluding Ermotti, UBS executives receive 1.5 million Swiss francs each in annual base salary, while the CEO is paid 2.5 million francs, a spokeswoman said, bringing the total for three months’ pay across its thirteen executives to just over 5.1 million Swiss francs ($5.3 million).

Ermotti has already made a personal contribution of 1 million Swiss francs to efforts in his home canton of Ticino, which has suffered the brunt of the outbreak in Switzerland.

UBS earlier announced plans to suspend half its 2019 dividend payment until later in the year after a request from Switzerland’s financial markets supervisor FINMA.

Ermotti, who is due to be replaced in November by Ralph Hamers, who previously led Dutch bank ING (INGA.AS), said it was too early to talk about its 2020 dividend.

“We’re going to think prudently about our desire to keep a very strong capital position and also serve our clients and lend where appropriate and necessary,” Ermotti said on Bloomberg TV.

“But also we will take into consideration the needs of our shareholders in terms of capital returns.”

Switzerland’s largest bank also said it expected to see a first-quarter profit rise to about $1.5 billion.

Ermotti said all its businesses, which include the world’s biggest wealth management operations, investment banking and asset management, as well as a Swiss-focused retail and corporate banking business, had done well in the first quarter.

The Swiss native, who has led UBS since 2011, cautioned about investing in equities, saying it was currently too difficult to forecast how the markets would develop.

“It is good to see the market rebounding,” he said, noting expectations for a recovery in the coming months.

“There is downside risk to that scenario. In that sense I would be careful about too much exposure to equities at this stage,” he added.

Reporting by John Revill and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Alexander Smith

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