UBS relaunches internal social network after rogue trader scandal forced temporary shutdown

Financial giant UBS has re-launched its enterprise social network after it was shut down due to legal concerns in the wake of a high profile rogue trading scandal.


Financial giant UBS has re-launched its enterprise social network after it was shut down due to legal concerns in the wake of a high profile rogue trading scandal.

The Swiss banking and wealth management firm first implemented its UBS Connections social network platform in 2010, putting in place a tweaked on-premise implementation of Jive Software v5. With a large international workforce of 62,000 employees, UBS aimed to enable greater business agility and improve knowledge-sharing among key staff.  

However its innovative social networking plans ran into major problems in 2011 when it was discovered that former UBS employee, Kweku Adoboli, had ran up a $2 billion (£1.3 billion) loss on the bank’s derivatives desk.

According to Peter Barnes, global head of on-line media IT at UBS, the bank was forced to rethink its social strategy following the event, and the network was subsequently taken offline so that safeguards could be put in place to prevent sensitive topics appearing on discussion groups.

“We originally put Jive in 2010 and ripped it out again in 2012. "This was because of an unfortunate unauthorised trading incident, and the lawyers felt we didn’t have enough control on that message and what the employees could and couldn’t comment on," he said at a roundtable in London this week. "So they had kittens and they asked us to shut it down.”

He continued: “I had the joyous opportunity to then put millions of controls in place to keep the lawyers and the head of compliance happy.

"[We had to] put it in a way that that we weren’t going to get sued and had it under control so everyone knew what the rules of the game were.”

More regulatory challenges

These were not the only regulatory challenges that the bank was forced to navigate in its social strategy. Employment legislations in some of the countries in which UBS operates prohibites certain features of the Jive software.

“Germany doesn’t like Jive very much because it has got a points scoring system, and they didn’t want a points scoring system to be part of an HR performance system," he said. "Also they had problems with the ‘presence’ system, because they didn’t want managers to judge people that were not at their desk, and where data is stored, which is true for any organisation.”

Differing rules on worker's rights across continental Europe mean the service has not been switched on in certain regions.

“At this moment in time I have three European countries which are switched off from Jive because they have not agreed to a social network in that particular country for those employees.  So it can be quite tricky.”

Relaunching the social network

Despite these challenges UBS persevered with the social strategy and has now relaunched the network, currently supporting 41,000 staff around the world, and storing 4 terabytes of data.

Around a quarter of those on the platform are actively contributing users, while many view, but do not add, content. There are now also 1,200 user groups on UBS Connections, aimed at enabling discussion around work related topics, with strict safeguards to prevent ‘religious or extreme views’ being discussed.

Barnes said that the Jive implementation has brought a number of benefits. By integrating some of the Jive features with analytics business intelligence tools such as Tableau and BusinessObjects, for example, it is easier to gain an overview and visualise the flow of information between its different geographical regions.

In addition, reducing the reliance on email and improving search functionality, has enabled small individual productivity gains to be made.  When a few minutes of time is saved by each employees a week, this can quickly add up when applied across the company, with Barnes claiming that potential savings have reached approximately SFr12 million (£8.3m) each year.

Barnes said ultimately the aim is to create a more agile business, no mean feat for a “supertanker” sized company in a heavily regulated market, and is now looking towards upgrading to Jive 6 in the near future.

“The size of the prize really is to get people in different environments to work in a different way, to try and leverage the intellect of the company and be more innovative, and can help us be more ‘sticky’ to clients.” 

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