UBS to Employees: We're Bankers -- and Must Dress Like Bankers

Business dress code In a bid to promote a more polished image, Swiss-banking giant UBS (UBS) is distributing a 43-page publication of guidelines to employees that advises them on how to dress to impress when dealing with clients.

The rules echo those at Swiss boarding schools and go beyond mere garment selection to include tips on hygiene and grooming, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal this week.

The effort is part of a pilot program rolling out in five Swiss branches and builds on a recent UBS ad campaign that seeks to foster greater confidence in the bank and mend fractured relationships with consumers, the newspaper notes. Included in the advice are basics on garment selection when dealing with banking clients, such as choosing well-tailored clothing in darker hues, since charcoal, navy and black, "symbolize competence, formalism and sobriety."

More from the Journal article:

Short skirts are off limits for female staff, who are told the ideal length should reach the middle of the knee. Showy accessories and trendy spectacles are a no-no. The document isn't short of handy grooming tips.

"Light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara and discreet lipstick . . . will enhance your personality," the code says, while advising women not to wear black nail polish and nail art.

Career-expert Andrea Kay says UBS's suggestions remind her of how employees used to dress and conduct themselves while at work in prior decades -- when such issues didn't need to be pointed out. Further, she says, though the rules may seem extreme, the banking industry is a different breed of business.

Customers want to feel they're dealing with mature adults who exercise good judgment, says Kay, author of five books on career advice, including Life's a Bitch and Then You Change Careers.

"Didn't Your Mother Teach You?"

"What strikes me is how the company feels it must even do this," she says. Still, the banking giant obviously does feel compelled to speak up about appearance in such detailed manner because some fundamentals aren't being followed, Kay says. "If you look around these days, it does make you wonder: Didn't your mother teach you this?"

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Kay acknowledges that some workers may find such detailed rules off-putting. Today, it's rather uncommon for a company to offer such voluminous guidance, in light of the trend toward more casual workplaces. Further, the strict guidelines seem at odds with many corporations' push toward more diversity in the workplace.

"On the other hand," Kay says, "there are probably plenty of people who, despite the perceived 'nitpickyness' of the rules, won't be offended and would be willing to comply."

The code may not be the most effective way for UBS bankers to reconnect with disenfranchised customers, she says. "But they apparently feel strongly about getting back to basics with their front-line folks."

The UBS Dress Code: Do's and Don'ts


For women:
  • Wear your jacket buttoned.
  • When sitting, the buttons should be unfastened.
  • Make sure to touch up hair regrowth regularly if you color your hair.
For men:
  • Store your suit on a large hanger with rounded shoulders to preserve the shape of the garment.
  • Schedule barber appointments every four weeks to maintain your haircut shape.
  • Eating garlic and onion
  • Smoking or spending time in smoke-filled places
  • Wearing short-sleeved shirts or cuff links
  • Wearing socks that are too short, showing your skin while sitting
  • Allowing underwear to be seen
  • Touching up perfume during or after lunch break
  • Using tie knots that don't match your face shape and/or body shape
Source: The Wall Street Journal
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