SABINE MAGRI, COO UBS Switzerland, talks about the role innovation plays at UBS, the importance of using capital not only to achieve a financial return but also to make a social difference, and how employees at all levels can get involved.
“Reimagining the power of investing. Connecting people for a better world” is the new purpose of UBS. What approach is the bank taking with this?
When we talk about investment, it is also about doing something meaningful with the capital we have. We are thinking about ways to harness the power of people and capital to create a better world for us all. One example of this is a fund concept of our UBS Optimus Foundation that is based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Investors who invest capital in this fund can thus support projects in developing countries, for example in the areas of education, health or the environment. The level of return depends on the effective impact of the programs. This is what we at UBS mean by “reimagining the power of investing.” Closely related to this is the second part of our purpose: “connecting people for a better world.” We are convinced that you can achieve more by bringing people together. Around the world, our 70,000 employees make connections every day: connections to each other, connections to and between clients, to suppliers, etc. This is a powerful network. As the world's largest wealth manager and the largest bank in Switzerland, we have excellent opportunities to bring people together for ideas and involvement—and make a difference.
For many people, it is important to do something meaningful in their job. What opportunities does UBS offer their employees to find meaningful work?
We offer our employees a lot of opportunities to change things for the better—at very different levels. Let me illustrate this with the topic of sustainability: On a global level, for example, we are a founding member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, an association of over forty banks working together to find the most effective ways to achieve a net-zero global economy. There is also a lot that can be done in collaboration with our clients. As a leader in sustainable investing, we support our private clients in making their portfolios sustainable without compromising on performance. We also advise companies on questions such as: “How can we make our value chain more sustainable?” And with our volunteering program, our employees can use two days a year for community service. All of this really makes you feel like you’re doing something very meaningful at UBS.
Innovation is a high priority at UBS. How can employees get involved in this process?
As a bank, we have to keep reinventing ourselves—if only to be able to continue offering our clients individual and relevant products. Every day, we question how we can do things better. Our teams work on innovations across divisions and countries. But it goes even further: For example, we hold internal hackathons and have developed a digital platform through which our employees can submit ideas and suggestions for improvement. The ideas are directed to the right place where they are followed up and, where appropriate, implemented. Besides, one thing is quite clear: Innovation happens where you can contribute and develop personally, where you are challenged and encouraged. At UBS, you have the chance to look into many different areas and learn from others. And of course, there's UBS University with countless opportunities for further education.
What is the company doing to build up expertise in the area of agile working?
Four years ago, we founded our Digital Factory: Colleagues from different areas work together in teams to develop new digital solutions. They sit around the same table, so to speak, and there are no long channels to make decisions. Once a topic has been completed, the teams are reassembled and the next solution is developed. This allows us to act very quickly. In the meantime, we have implemented this agile way of working further into the organization. As a result, we are not only able to increase our speed, but the employees are also very satisfied with this form of collaboration. They can take on more responsibility, help shape more and directly influence the outcome. Of course, we support them through coaching to develop their agile skills.
What changes were launched during the coronavirus pandemic that will also help UBS in the future?
The coronavirus has presented us all with challenges. A large proportion of our employees had to be enabled to work from home in a very short time. We adapted our training, resources, tools and IT systems to enable new and more flexible working concepts. And it is this flexibility that we want to maintain in the future with our hybrid working model.
What is UBS doing to maintain and further expand its leading position as a digital bank in Switzerland?
We are proud that we have been able to position ourselves so well. In 2021, for example, we were named "Best Bank in Switzerland" by both "Euromoney" and "The Banker". UBS has always invested constantly in technology and innovation—and will continue to do so in the future. Our goal is to help our clients achieve their goals faster and more individually through intelligent solutions. Our purpose shows us the way.