Sergio Ermotti
Sergio Ermotti, CEO of UBS AG said the Swiss financial services firm would double its staff in China. Pictured: Ermotti speaks during a news conference in Zurich, Switzerland, May 6, 2014. Getty Images/Bloomberg/Philipp Schmidli

UBS Group AG’s CEO Sergio Ermotti said the Swiss financial services firm would double its staff in China, adding about 600 employees, over 5 years. The company would beef up its operations in wealth management, equities, investment banking as well as back-end services, Ermotti said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Shanghai.

Speaking about the company’s future plans in the country, Ermotti said the company would expand at a much faster pace in the next 10 years compared to its growth in the region so far. The staff increases would be “across the board” in core businesses such as wealth management, investment banking, stock markets, fixed income and asset management, he told Bloomberg, along with back-office services for UBS’ global operations.

The announcement came even as China’s main stock market benchmark, the Shanghai Composite Index lost close to 13 percent since the beginning of the year and some of UBS’ competitors scaled back Asian operations in recent months.

European banks like BNP Paribas SA, Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays PLC have either scaled back, or are looking to reduce, their operations in the region as a drop in Chinese trading volumes and local competition hit profits. Last month, Deutsche Bank AG co-CEO John Cryan told Bloomberg that the region has “huge” competition for limited fees.

Ermotti acknowledged Monday that 2016 would be a challenging year globally but sounded confident about going against the tide. “China is a great opportunity like it has been for the last 20 years,” he maintained. “China is not on its own with those challenges,” Ermotti said, when asked about the Chinese market starting the year on an unsteady footing, adding: “Those are also the good times to plan for the future, and that’s the reason why we are starting to implement our strategic plan.”

UBS was ranked second in a list of top investment banks in China in 2015, the only foreign bank to feature in the top ten list as local securities firms suddenly dominated China’s investment banking league tables. The Zurich-based bank was the first foreign firm allowed to invest directly into a fully-licensed Chinese securities business in 2006.

The company’s stock has lost a little more than 8 percent of its value since the beginning of the year on the New York Stock Exchange.