A Brief History of the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS)
The history of the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) is a long and complicated one. It was founded as the result of a merger between two of Switzerland’s largest banks – the Swiss Bank Corporation and the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).
The origins of the Swiss Bank Corporation dates backs to 1854 when it was founded as the Basel Bank Corporation by six private banks, where investment banking was its specialization. In 1895, the Basel Bank Corporation merged with the Zurich Bank Corporation. During this time, the bank began to partake in commercial banking, which became its principal activity. After acquiring the Schweizerische Unionbank in St. Gall and the Basler Depositenbank in 1897, this bank began to operate under a new name, Schweizerischer Bankverein. In 1917, this became known as the Swiss Bank Corporation.
The Swiss Bank Corporation continued to absorb other Swiss banks, and subsequently opened branches throughout Switzerland and in other countries. The bank’s headquarters were in Basel, which was also the main office for European banking, while the main office for international banking was in Zürich.
The Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) emerged in 1912 as the result of a merger between the Bank of Winterthur and the Toggenburger Bank. Founded in 1862, the Bank in Winterthur was founded as a commercial bank, providing financing for industry and a range of companies and projects. The Toggenburger Bank was founded in 1863 as a savings and mortgage bank. It was also involved in securities trading. This new bank used different names as a result of its three core languages – German, French, and English. The initial English name of this combined bank was the Swiss Banking Association, but in 1921, was renamed the Union Bank of Switzerland.
UBS subsequently absorbed a number of other Swiss banks such as Banca Svizzera-Americana, Unionbank Geneva, Banque Henry Rieckel & Cie., and Schweizerische Vereinsbank. With its acquisitions, overseas representative offices and branches, and its new Zürich headquarters, UBS became one of the largest commercial banks in Switzerland.
In 1967, UBS opened its first foreign branch office in London. With increasing competition coming from American financial institutions, the Swiss Bank Corporation and UBS decided to merge together in 1998.
Today, the UBS Group AG is the largest bank in Switzerland and one of the largest financial institutions in the world, with assets of about $600 billion. It provides all kinds of banking services, from retail banking to wealth management. With headquarters in Zürich and Basel, the UBS Group AG has branches in more than 50 countries and employs about 64,000 people around the world.