UBS is hiring a team of “content reviewers” to ensure its analysts’ Chinese research publications are free of “sensitivities”, in a move that a rival says amounts to self-censorship.
The recruitment drive comes three years after the Swiss bank’s top economist was suspended in a dispute over comments about pigs in China.
A job advertisement posted by UBS’s global wealth management division in July said “reviewers” would ensure that “the language, tone and content” of all its reports published in Chinese are “appropriate and comply with regulatory and internal directives”.
“You will ensure that all our Chinese-language publications are . . . free of any sensitivities,” the ad read.
A person familiar with the hiring process said UBS has since hired an examiner in Hong Kong and is hiring more people in Singapore. They sit alongside its research writing team.
You will ensure that all our Chinese language publications are . . . free from all feelings
A rival global bank executive says UBS’s hiring plans amount to “self-censorship”, adding that their bank only allows “accurate translations” when publishing research in Chinese and English . However, a person close to UBS denied that they were censoring their research and said it was “not a new concept” and that other banks were hiring the same type of editors “under a different name”.
UBS declined to comment.
In 2019, UBS was at the center of an outcry in China after its global chief wealth management economist, Paul Donovan, made comments about pigs in China during an outbreak of swine fever, which was seen as a racist slur.
Hong Kong-based Chinese brokerage Haitong International Securities has canceled all work with UBS, and the Securities Association of China, a self-regulatory body, has told members not to cite its research or invite Donovan to events.
He was suspended by UBS and reinstated four months later, after issuing an apology in which he said he “unknowingly used extremely culturally insensitive language”.
The incident highlighted the high stakes for global financial institutions looking to expand their presence in China as the world’s second-largest economy begins to open up its financial sector to foreign competition.
International banks have had to negotiate a sensitive geopolitical landscape as they try to expand their influence in China and risk alienating politicians and customers on both sides.
JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon issued two apologies last year after joking that the Wall Street bank would survive the Chinese Communist Party. In July, HSBC came under heavy criticism from US lawmakers after the Financial Times reported it had installed a Communist Party committee in its Chinese investment bank, a legal requirement for foreign companies in China.
UBS was an early mover among foreign investment banks in China, establishing the first securities joint venture in 2007 and then becoming the first to acquire a majority stake in such a venture in 2018. In March, it increased its stake to 67%.
Rival investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan won licenses to run wholly-owned securities businesses in China for the first time in the past year.
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