Culture: the glue that keeps us together

At UBS, we believe that the right strategy and a strong culture drive strong performance. For many years now, we’ve expressed this conviction in our three keys to success.

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Our Pillars, Principles and Behaviors underscore our strategy and our culture, defining what we stand for as a firm and as individuals. We’ve embedded these tenets in our daily business and investment decisions, management practices and employee experience to unlock the firm’s potential.

These foundations were tested in 2020, as the pandemic disrupted many of our established practices and even our sense of community. We leveraged learnings from our Asia Pacific region and partnered with our business continuity, IT and operations teams on infrastructure solutions that within a few weeks enabled 95 percent of employees to work effectively at home. In this effort, collaboration was our most useful ally. During the first half of 2020, teams across UBS rolled out new tools for virtual working and accelerated the automation, digitalization and streamlining of hundreds of processes to support business, operations and management activities. At the same time, we provided a number of new resources to support employees’ health and well-being. Surveys conducted in May and September emphasized the importance of these measures: 91 percent of employees reported that they were equally or more productive working online at home than before, while more than 80 percent felt well connected to their colleagues and also well cared for by the firm.

The key to employees’ resilience? At every turn, it was our culture. Already the “glue” that holds us together in difficult times, a strong sense of culture is even more important when employees can’t interact on a daily basis. That’s one reason we embedded our Pillars, Principles and Behaviors in all of our management processes in the first place, and why in recent months we’ve focused heavily on building connectivity among employees and especially between line managers and their team members. Those connections strengthen our culture and build a sense of belonging when in-person interaction is limited.

What we delivered in 2020 was only possible because our culture was well established long before we needed to rely on it so completely.

Can culture be conveyed remotely?

Early on, we recognized the particular challenges the pandemic placed on our recruitment processes. In prior years, many activities were conducted in person, with numerous culture-infusing touchpoints between UBS and the candidate. In March 2020, a cross-firm team successfully digitalized all of our hiring and onboarding activities. As a result, the majority of the 9,296 external candidates hired in 2020 were on-boarded virtually into remote-working roles. Although they had line manager and team support, along with training to help them integrate into our culture, these new employees may never have experienced our culture in person.

One of those individuals was Prerona Kalita, a communications specialist for Group Technology in Pune, India. Hired in June, Prerona never spent a day in the office during all of 2020, nor did she meet her teammates in person. Could she still experience what makes us UBS? “Time and time again, I’ve seen that our culture is real. During interviews, I learned that inclusion is woven deep into the fabric of UBS’s culture. Now I see our culture living in what we focus on, like collaboration, employee well-being, training to fill in my knowledge gaps, our focus on internal mobility, and especially team interactions. In my view, what we delivered in 2020 was only possible because our culture was well established long before we needed to rely on it so completely.”

Appreciation as culture carrier

Never underestimate the power of “thank you,” or the significance of a colleague’s genuine “great job, well done.” Encouraging to the individual, who feels recognized and valued, on an organizational level peer-to-peer appreciation is an organic way to increase engagement and build a stronger sense of community and corporate spirit.

UBS has for many years encouraged continuous feedback and rewarded employees for proposing ideas to improve collaboration and effectiveness. Launched in late 2020, “Kudos” is our most transformative employee recognition program to date. Employees can easily give Kudos to show appreciation for a colleague who has expended extra effort, say thank you for great collaboration, or celebrate successes and achievements. That in-the-moment feedback comes with points that can be redeemed for merchandise, services like home food delivery, or gift vouchers. In a time where connectivity must be intentional, Kudos has enabled employees to connect in an authentic and positive way.

Our Pillars are the foundation for everything we do.

Capital strength
Efficiency and effectiveness
Risk management

Our Principles are what we stand for as a firm.

Client focus
Sustainable performance

Our Behaviors are what we stand for individually.


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