UBS recognised in seven categories at the 2021 FX Markets Best Banks Awards

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Winner: FX Markets Best Banks 2021 Awards

Best bank for spot
Best bank for EEMEA
Best bank for USD/CHF
Best bank for GBP/USD
Best single-dealer platform
Best bank for e-trading
Best bank for wealth management

An unrelenting focus on client need and a hybrid approach of ‘technology with a human edge’, leveraging the tech while still relying on experienced sales and trading teams to provide advice when it is needed most, led to a haul of awards for UBS 

Stephan Hoeger, UBS
Stephan Hoeger, UBS

Standing by its clients throughout the roller-coaster ride of the past two years is the epitome of the client-focused strategy at UBS. Whether keeping the liquidity taps open when volatility spiked at the first blow of the Covid‑19 pandemic, or allowing clients to access all the bank’s trading platforms from wherever they might be trading, UBS responded swiftly to clients’ needs to guide them safely through those critical times.

The surging FX trading volumes that flowed through UBS’ single-dealer platform Neo when volatility was at its highest not only further consolidated the bank’s position as a leading provider of liquidity to the FX markets, but galvanised it to enhance Neo’s capabilities to create an environment where clients can trade as efficiently as possible across jurisdictions, products and services.

Building on the success of its electronic FX trading franchise at the height of the pandemic-induced volatility, UBS felt the time was ripe to extend the benefits of e-trading on Neo to a wider range of emerging market currencies. The bouts of volatility that emerged in the early parts of 2020 had become a rare occurrence in the world’s major FX trading centres in the years prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, but emerging markets have always been more susceptible to its effects than their Group of 10 counterparts due to the more disparate and less electronic provision of liquidity in these jurisdictions.   

UBS thus began to invest heavily in its emerging market franchise. And, as a way to engage further with its clients on the emerging market front, the bank significantly enhanced client connectivity to these currencies to make them available to trade electronically. As a result of this investment, UBS added a set of new emerging and frontier market currencies for trading on its electronic trading platform in 2021, including the Egyptian pound, Kazakhstani tenge and Qatari riyal.

In addition to extending spot electronic trading to new emerging markets, during the year the bank also expanded its non-deliverable offering by increasing the number of currencies available to trade electronically via non-deliverable forwards (NDFs). Building on the stock of well-established NDF currencies such as the Korean won, Taiwanese dollar, Indian rupee and Brazilian real, UBS now also offers less commonly traded currencies such as Chilean and Colombian pesos.

Optimising trade lifecycles

“We are proud to be one of the largest electronic NDF players now,” says Stephan Hoeger, global head of e-FX sales at UBS. “Through our deep understanding of emerging markets in different market conditions, we can identify and remain focused on helping our clients to access the best liquidity in those currencies – be it via electronic tools or through our voice desk. In 2021 we saw yet again with currencies like the Turkish lira how important it is to provide liquidity at all times to help our clients manage their risk. This was a key area of focus for us in 2021 and will continue to be in 2022 as access to these markets are in great demand from our global client base.”

Market participants recognised UBS’ efforts in emerging markets by voting it the best FX bank for Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at the 2021 FX Markets Best Bank Awards. They also bestowed the bank with six other awards, including best single-dealer platform, best bank for spot, e-trading, GBP/USD, USD/CHF, and best FX bank for wealth management.

The breadth of recognition is the result of years of investment by UBS in its FX franchise to build an offering that matches its clients’ needs on the one hand and the bank’s FX capability on the other. During that time the bank has continuously developed its technology stack and recruited diverse talent across its sales trading, quant and IT teams to build a successful and sustainable franchise with the aim of providing liquidity and managing risk effectively across a wide variety of FX instruments.

As such, UBS continually works to enhance the capabilities of Neo to create an environment where its clients can trade as efficiently as possible as well as to optimise the entire lifecycle of their trades. The launch of the bank’s UBS T-Pricer FX for options and structured products during the market turbulence of 2020 is the perfect example of UBS’ strategy to move away from the traditional quote-and-price-driven model to one that is full-service oriented. The tool is fitted with hundreds of grids of variations, scenario walkthroughs and payoff structures that help clients generate and trial structuring ideas to see which are the most efficient for their purposes.

People power

Technology is not a substitute for a salesperson or a trader, Hoeger emphasises. A strong client relationship is not only absolutely vital, but part and parcel of UBS’ strategy to provide a full lifecycle experience for its clients.

Hoeger believes the seamless nature of its business allows clients to connect to a fully integrated FX service – regardless of whether their touchpoint with the franchise is the investment bank or UBS’ wealth management arm – and goes a long way to explaining the success of its franchise. And while at its core UBS is a Swiss bank – albeit with a truly global presence – what is most important to be successful in a diverse market such as FX is to have the best technology and the best people to support it while keeping clients at the centre of everything.

“Our approach to meeting our clients’ needs is a hybrid approach, which we call technology with a human edge,” explains Hoeger. “What we mean by this is we leverage technology, data and electronic trading as much as possible to help meet our clients’ needs across all instruments. But the technology is only as good as the human inputs supporting it, and our experienced sales and trading teams provide the relevant FX advisory and risk management when required and when it matters most.

“With this hybrid approach we believe we can ensure that our clients’ needs on efficient provisioning of liquidity and effective FX risk management are met at all times, whatever the circumstance and in a consistent manner. In winning seven awards in very different and competitive categories, we are proud to see that our clients seem to agree with that approach.”

Consistency and convenience

But maintaining this level of relevance to clients is an ever-moving target. Demand for products and services is continuously changing as the needs of institutional, corporate and wealth management clients evolve according to circumstances in the market. The challenge here is to ensure that the bank can provide on-going services to clients that are bespoke to their trading strategies or execution style.

“This is a fast-moving industry,” says Hoeger. “We constantly need to reimagine our abilities and how we can make it work for our clients. At UBS we believe that to better meet the future needs of our clients we have to continuously evaluate the way we do business and remain agile and adapt to this ever faster changing environment that we’re living in.”

Despite everything, however, consistency and convenience remain at the core of what clients want from a liquidity provider. What matters most to them is to have access to deep liquidity regardless of the volatility landscape. With UBS’ agility and continuous investment in providing the very best of traditional and electronic trading products and its fully integrated FX service model across institutional and wealth markets, it is well placed to meet current and future client needs, regardless of market conditions.

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