Trust is often not established in carefree times but in periods of adversity. The last year serves as a reminder of this very human trait. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us many lessons. One was certainly the importance of seamless, high-quality service regardless of circumstance. Most importantly, our clients must feel that we understand their concerns and needs, and that we take care of them in a genuine and personal way.
This is exactly what we’ve done – and looking back on a year as challenging as 2020, it’s even more gratifying to see client satisfaction increasing according to client surveys, including significant increases in our Global Wealth Management and Personal & Corporate Banking divisions this past year. So, what did we do to maintain and strengthen already close relationships with our clients?
Thanks to our steady investments in technology and early adoption of digital channels, we were able to rapidly adjust to the new, remote world – offering our advisory and support services virtually, in a pragmatic, entrepreneurial and flexible manner. As a result, we were there for our clients, as well as our employees, without any interruption.
For example, even before the outbreak of the pandemic, a large and growing number of our clients were already taking advantage of our digital tools. And the crisis – wherein a large number of people around the world were working from home for months – further accelerated this shift to digital. For example, in Switzerland, we now see roughly 70 percent of our clients doing business with us in this way. And in GWM, the second quarter alone saw electronic check deposits using our mobile app increase by more than 120 percent.
Building on a strong foundation
COVID-19 also reinforced that the financial sector plays an essential role in society. Financial institutions and banks are key pillars for economic growth, which includes everything from lending to small business owners to providing up-to-date market insights in a volatile environment. In short, clients around the world looked to us for advice, solutions and support in navigating uncertainty.
For example, in the US we supported small and mid-sized enterprises through the US federal Paycheck Protection Program, and helped corporate clients raise debt and equity in the capital markets. And in our home market Switzerland we played our part in absorbing the negative effects on the Swiss economy and our clients. As part of the COVID-19 bridging loan program, which was launched by the Swiss Federal Government in collaboration with the Swiss National Bank and other Swiss banks, we provided small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with necessary liquidity within just a few days – in total we granted CHF 3 billion in an uncomplicated and swift way, in addition to other measures such as temporarily suspending amortization payments or leasing rates for firms particularly hard hit.
So, what will we remember when we look back on 2020? First, that a strong foundation is key. The strategic priorities UBS defined years ago navigated us through an unprecedented year. Second, we need to continue being forward-thinking, agile and efficient as a firm. According to a new global survey of executives,1 the pandemic has led companies to accelerate the digitalization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. Our investments in technology and resulting innovations will continue to help us adapt to the ever-changing circumstances.
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