UBS lost 60 advisers in the first quarter compared with the previous quarter, pushing the total drop in adviser headcount over the past 12 months to 166, a 2.4% decline, the company reported Thursday.
The firm's headcount, 6,790 at the end of March, declined despite the fact that UBS pulled out of an agreement among U.S. brokerages known as the protocol for broker recruiting that makes it easier for brokers to stop working at one firm and start at another. It was widely assumed that when UBS left the broker protocol agreement, broker attrition at the firm would grind to a halt, at least for a short time.
A spokesman for UBS, Peter Stack, said the decline in the number of advisers was minimal, the company was executing its plan and its advisers, on average, were among the most productive in the industry.
Meanwhile, UBS Group's global wealth management business reeled in $22.2 billion in net new money during the quarter, with the richest, ultra-high-net worth clients making up 92% of that total, according to the company's first quarter earnings report. However, the overwhelming amount, $16.3 billion, was in the Asia-Pacific region, with the company reporting no net new money growth in the Americas.
Pretax profits for wealth management Americas declined 6% year-over-year to $328 million, according to the company.
In a statement, UBS said the start of the year was "a challenging quarter" for its wealth management Americas business.
"In the Americas, this quarter's results demonstrate the resilience of our business model despite significant headwinds and difficult year-over-year comparisons to a standout first quarter in 2018," according to the company.
"Our business strategy continues to perform with some bright spots including record advisory penetration, an improving cost-to-income ratio, quarter over quarter, and a healthy improvement in net interest income. Through the three months of the quarter trends were steadily improving, creating positive momentum going into this next quarter."