UBS: the bank that likes to say 'dress'

UBS has gone all Gok Wan on its new employee dress code. Good to see a bank with its priorities straight...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 27 May 2011
Swiss bank UBS has just published a 44-page code laying out how its workers should dress – in ridiculously epic detail. It includes advising on flesh-toned, microfibre underwear for female officers, and telling its blokes to use shoehorns. Is this the answer to the world’s crushing fiscal woes?

Now we’re all for sartorial elegance in the team – just check out our  editor’s cherished collection of Etro blouses. But surely it’s all gone a bit far when you’re choosing the colour of their Calvin Kleins. What next? Holding their hand through the January sales?

We’re being ridiculous. UBS’ guidelines are far more grounded, simply insisting that shirt collars be wide enough to pass a finger inside, with cuffs showing between 1.5 and 2.5 cm beyond the jacket sleeve. Men will wear under-vests. And of course, lace-up shoes.

The detail of the code is precise yet ridiculous, like one of David Beckham’s haircuts. We can’t help thinking that UBS could have prioritised applying such care in other areas: it needed a $60bn rescue – Europe’s biggest – in the 2008 financial crisis. ‘Only black socks with no pattern are authorised,’ states the code. A good alternative may be: ‘Wear what you want on your feet, just don’t dish out ridiculous loans…’.

It’s hard to dispute that UBS is, like many banks, in need of an image revamp. But we’re not convinced this is the right way to go about it. ‘Every little hair that grows on the body has a purpose,’ says the code in one of its finer nuggets. As do other countries’ tax laws. We wonder whether it remembers the fine it was landed with in the US recently, for advising Americans on how to avoid paying theirs.

But you can’t blame UBS for wanting to create the right impression. As it states, professionalism is at the base of its business. And kudos that it’s not afraid to express its metrosexual side: male employees are being strongly advised to use moisturiser. ‘The skin is virtually our first item of clothing,’ it states. ‘We recommend that you protect it by applying a care cream made of active nourishing and calming ingredients.’

Of course, we wouldn’t want to create the impression that UBS is acting like some sort of sartorial North Korea: employees will be given the freedom to decide for themselves – whether to shave with a blade or an electric razor, if nothing else.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today