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UBS is all over agile, and not just for technologists

When Ralph Hamers was hired to be CEO of UBS in early 2020, his credentials as a person who is on big on agile methodology were key to his appeal. At ING, Hamers introduced a custom version of agile called PACE and rolled out the methodology across the bank, forming multidisciplinary, cross-functional ‘squads’ and ‘tribes'. Something similar now seems to be going on at UBS.

"This is front to back agile," said Hamers today, speaking on UBS's third quarter investor call. "It means that people who know the customer interface, the product and the process and the people who are into engineering are put into multidisciplinary teams."  

UBS has 3,000 people working in agile teams so far. A further 9,000 are "transitioning" and there was talk today of 25,000 UBS people working under the methodology next year. The Swiss bank has 20,000 people working in technology, so this looks like the bulk of the technology team. 

By implementing agile methodologies working on two week sprint cycles, Hamer says UBS plans to increase productivity, cut costs, and make its technology budget more effective. "My experience is that you improve time to market, fail fast and achieve much higher productivity for the same IT investment," he said. The unspoken implication is also that UBS will need fewer staff. Hamers said the move to agile also involves "taking out layers" and that people become "contributors rather than just managers." 

Hamers credit agile with helping to reduce costs to 68.7% of revenues at UBS in the third quarter, down from 70.4% last year.

If UBS succeeds in becoming a fully agile organisation, it will be quite an achievement. Implementing agile can be challenging in banks, where regulatory requirements add complications. At SocGen, 56% of its technology team were working in an Agile fashion at the end of 2020. Rob Rooney, the head of technology at Morgan Stanley is understood to have been attempting to introduce agile across Morgan Stanley, with varying degrees of success. 

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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