As the market churned in the fourth quarter, UBS Group said on Tuesday that the amount of net new money in its wealth management business in the Americas declined by $3.6 billion in the final quarter of last year when compared with the same quarter a year earlier.
Invested assets in the Americas dropped to $1.2 trillion at the end of December, a 5% decline from the year before. The S&P 500 declined 6.2% in 2018, its worst performance since 2008 when the broad market index dropped 38.5% from the fallout in the credit crisis.
A year ago, UBS created a unified Wealth Management and Wealth Management Americas business division, called Global Wealth Management. Withdrawals at that key unit totaled almost $8 billion in the fourth quarter, with clients removing another $5 billion from asset management, according to Bloomberg.
"In wealth management, particularly when I look at our overall results, of course they are not up to our ambitions and our expectations," UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti told Bloomberg Television. Clients are taking a wait-and-see attitude amid the trade tensions, he said.
Pretax profits in the wealth management business in the Americas were $338 million, an increase of 16% year-over-year, the company said.
UBS was upbeat about its U.S. wealth management results.
"The contribution of the Americas continues to be integral to UBS's success," the company said in a statement. "Financial adviser productivity continues to lead the industry with $1.35 million per adviser, in the United States only, up 5% year-over-year."
UBS' headcount of financial advisers saw a slight uptick over the course of 2018. At the end of the year, UBS reported 6,850 brokers and financial advisers compared with 6,822 a year earlier, an increase of 28.