UBS logoThe merger announced on 8 December 1997 between Union Bank of Switzerland (Zurich) and Swiss Bank Corporation (Basel) to form UBS AG became reality on 1 July 1998.
Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC; Schweizerischer Bankverein, Société de Banque Suisse, Società di Banca Svizzera) was founded in 1872 under the name Basler Bankverein, and had its registered office in Basel. In 1897 the bank changed its name to Schweizerischer Bankverein. SBC opened its first branch abroad in London as early as 1898, an indication of its early emphasis on foreign operations. The New York agency was opened in 1939. Although the bank opened branches in other regions of Switzerland at the start of the 20th century, its major nationwide expansion followed only in the 1960?s.
In 1945 SBC took over the troubled Basler Handelsbank, one of Switzerland’s big banks, founded in 1862. Within Switzerland, SBC traded as a so-called universal bank with distinctively Swiss characteristics, with domestic corporate and retail clients and asset management; whereas abroad, it concentrated mainly on commercial banking for corporate clients. In the last decade of the twentieth century, SBC strengthened its international orientation again by taking over foreign finance firms (1995: O’Connor & Associates, Chicago; Brinson Partners, Inc., Chicago; S.G. Warburg plc, London).
In 1997, its last full trading year, SBC’s total assets amounted to CHF 438.9 billion. The Swiss network had 288 branches and there were 77 offices outside Switzerland. The bank employed a total of 27,565 staff.
Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS; Schweizerische Bankgesellschaft, Union de Banques Suisses, Unione di Banche Svizzere) was created in 1912 by the merger of two regional banks: Toggenburger Bank, founded in 1863, and Bank in Winterthur (1862). After World War One, UBS gained a foothold in several Swiss cantons by taking over numerous banks and setting up its own branches, also turning to foreign business. The years of crisis that followed had far-reaching effects on UBS. In 1945 the bank moved its registered office to Zurich and acquired Eidgenössische Bank (1862), one of Switzerland’s big banks, which was in difficulties at the time. Only after the war did the first steps abroad occur, with branches in London (1967) and New York (1975). Like Swiss Bank Corporation, UBS was a typical representative of Swiss universal banking: at home, corporate and retail clients and asset management; mainly commercial banking for corporate clients abroad. In 1962, UBS’s assets totalled CHF 7.0 billion, and the bank led the field among Swiss banks for the first time. Further important milestones were the acquisition of Interhandel (1966) and of Phillips & Drew (1896) in 1985, the latter a British brokerage rich in tradition.
In its last full year of trading in 1997, UBS’s assets stood at CHF 557.6 billion. The Swiss business unit network ran to 357 branches with a further 82 branches abroad. The UBS Group employed 27,611 staff.
On 3 November 2000, UBS AG merged with PaineWebber Inc., a full-service securities firm located in New York and founded in 1879.