UBS Bonus Delay Not Due to Pool Size: CEO

Delays in the announcement of the bonuses at UBS were not due to executives' unhappiness about the size of the bonus pool, UBS CEO Oswald Gruebel told CNBC Tuesday.

Sharon Lorimer

A week ago, the bank sent an internal memo to its employees informing them that notification of their bonus payments would be delayed by one week from Feb. 9 to Feb. 16.

According to the memo, the reason for the delay was related to the completion of performance reviews and the need for a "high quality payment process."

But people close to the bank told CNBC that the bonus pool was not large enough to ensure that UBS would be able to keep high-performing employees.

"In my 50 years in that business, investment bankers always believe that the pool is too small but for the delay it was purely operational, no other reasons," Gruebel said in an interview.

UBS, which had the biggest loss in the country's history in 2008, said it would pay out 10 percent less in bonuses for 2010, cutting the bonus pool to 4.3 billion Swiss francs ($4 billion).

The bank attracted 3.4 billion Swiss francs of new money to its Americas business after a small net outflow the previous quarter. But its fixed income business did not perform as well as it should, Gruebel said, adding that he was positive things will improve during the course of this year.

The bank's Tier 1 capital ratio rose to 17.7 percent from 16.7 percent, among the strongest in the industry, as it has to comply with tougher Swiss rules, and it reiterated that it will not pay a dividend for last year.

Tougher Swiss regulations are not necessarily a disadvantage but more harmonized regulations would help banks, Gruebel added.

"No, I don't think we are at a disadvantage, but it does impact our day-to-day business and probably with every bank and much too much because global banks who are in different countries have to talk to all the regulators in each of the countries," he said.

"What we see is very little unity and also no common field on how the regulatory environment will be in the future," Gruebel added.