UBS dress code: dull Swiss bank conformity in excruciating detail

swiss bank style

The UBS dress code seeks to polish appearances at the Swiss bank that lost more money than any other European bank during the financial crisis. Image: CC menage a moi/Flickr

The UBS dress code is a 43-page handbook issued by the Swiss bank UBS AG to its employees. In meticulous detail, the UBS dress code outlines how its army of suits must dress for success. UBS, some analysts say, issued the dress code as part of an effort to rebuild its reputation after taking a bath in the financial crisis.

UBS dress code: camouflage for bankers

The UBS dress code is a style manual fit for a prep school with a little bit of fashion and beauty advice thrown in. The idea is to blend in to the surroundings with an extreme level of conformity that covers everything from underwear to the lunch menu. The UBS dress code comes on the heels of an advertising campaign reaching out to clients who were burned by UBS, the world’s largest private bank, during the financial crisis. The style manual is being tested in five UBS branches in Switzerland. If employees become more successful, the dress code will be enforced at all Swiss UBS branches.

How to dress for success at UBS

Overall, the UBS dress code espouses the bland, generic look people expect from bankers: dark suits for men, neutral outfits for women. Short skirts that are too tight are a no-no. Flashy jewelery is out for both genders, especially male earrings. But Swiss being Swiss, a distinctive wristwatch is standard equipment. Men need a haircut every four weeks and Grecian Formula is out of the question. Women must use light makeup limited to foundation, mascara and “discreet” lipstick. Other standards include no cartoon socks, trendy eyewear, nail art, strong fragrances or garlic breath. And never, ever wash and iron your shirts yourself.

UBS needs more than a dress code

When the financial crisis hit in 2007, UBS wrote down about $50 billion in mortgage related assets and cut 11,000 jobs. It was also embroiled in an investigation of UBS tax evasion in the U.S. During the financial crisis UBS reported more losses ($57.3 billion) than any European bank. Top executives left and took their clients with them. UBS CEO Oswald J. Grubel has been pleading with investors personally to keep them from defecting. He claims to have been successful. It must have been his properly-knotted tie.


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