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Bank tells women what to wear and men to shave

It may be old news for some of you by now, but the wires have been abuzz with the news that UBS has issued a strict dress code guide to staff in Switzerland.

The guide amounts to a weighty 44 pages, and begins with lines such as: “An impeccable appearance can procure interior peace and a feeling of security”; and, in indomitably Swiss fashion, “he who wears a watch conveys trustworthiness and great concern for punctuality.”

It goes further:

  • Only suits of grey, black or navy blue may be worn, and must be kept dry-cleaned and changed daily;
  • Shirt-collars must be wide enough to pass a finger inside and shirt cuffs must show between 1.5cm and 2.5cm beyond the jacket sleeve;
  • Men must wear ties with patterns that “match the bone structure of their face”;
  • Facial stubble, tattoos or ear-rings on a man is a big no-no;
  • Only lace-up shoes can be worn and men must wear black, non-patterned socks;
  • Female staff who wear skirts must ensure they descend to mid-knee and no more than 5cm below the knee;
  • She must wear a white blouse that “must neither be tight on the bosom, not gape open, because that gives a negligent appearance”, with strong advisory that flesh-tinted bras are de rigueur to remain invisible under the blouse;
  • Standard-style neckwear must be worn and the blouse collar must appear over the jacket lapel;
  • Women may wear seven items of jewellery, but men only three;
  • Female employees are also told that wearing make-up gives the impression of competence, but to avoid nail art and avoid heavy makeup;
  • Female employees are even advised to do such things as wear buttons fastened when standing, unbuttoned when sitting, and warns of the dangers of wearing too-tight underwear and shoes; and
  • Employees of both sexes are urged to avoid smelling of strong perfume, garlic, onion or cigarette smoke.

If you would like a copy of the guide then  Download UBS Dress Code, a loose translation.

The bank is trying to rebuild its image after receiving a $69 billion bailout as a result of the global financial crisis and, whilst appearing a little old fashioned, the Wall Street Journal reports  that this is a good guide, grounded in common sense with lots of interest globally to replicate as sane advice to any corporations’ employees on how to make a good impression. 

HT to Neil Peacock for sharing this with me.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • More a reflection of clinging to 20th century command and control management models imho… If you treat people like children they will live down to your expectations… imo. Horses for courses, if their staff don’t know how best to dress and comport themselves in line with their customers expectations then perhaps they have the wrong people. And if they really don’t believe they can trust their staff, why not go all the way and call a spade a spade and put them into nice UBS uniforms…

  • Ralph, former bank manager

    Finally a bank that stems against the ‘laissez aller’ that has become ‘fashionable’ nowadays. When I go to the bank I want to speak to a banker, not to the plumber. Why must everyone wear worn-off jeans when we are all against uniforms. It looks often untidy, filthy, and has no personal touch. Imagine the hygiene when people wear their jeans 365 days a year which many do. And, by the way, who is critizising this recommendation from UBS? The stiffest rule in the UK since ages is wearing a dark, possibly pin-striped business suit, bank tie and black shoes in the City of London! I remeber visiting a London bank with a British colleague who was dressed with a blazer, dark grey flanell trousers, black shoes, white shirt + tie. He was greeted with “hi John, are you on holidays?”. So lets accept UBS initiative as a reminder that proper dressing and personal care is not only the minimum politeness to customers and colleagues, but also the most elementary basic for one’s own culture and well being – although, I admit, UBS may be a bit over the top, … just Swiss clock precision. But nevertheless, hail to a long awaited voice for a bit of common sense and civilised appearance.

  • Jeremy Kidd

    As a regular non-banker attendee of Sibos, I am always a bit sad for bankers and the compulsion to dress so uniformly. This is an industry starving for innovation and overhaul, and I’m sorry but this is a reflection of the very problem. There is something to be said for caring what one looks like and respecting yourself and others by not looking like a slob, but there are MANY different ways a person can honor that. The idea that there is one right way is a core cultural issue and stodgy banks need to adapt or get out of the way. Just ask Venessa Miemis:

  • The proof of the pudding will be the success or failure of UBS over the next few years. I am prepared to bet that they will actually succeed by sticking to their guns. Would you invest money with a guy who cannot be bothered to dress the part? Creating confidence is what investment banking is about. Those who imagine that they are not wearing a uniform at work are kidding themselves.
    Let’s wait and look at the results before we judge!