ZURICH, Nov 30 (Reuters) - UBS has launched physical gold trading for Swiss customers via its mobile banking app, the first bank in the country to do so, broadening the traditional safe haven asset's availability to retail customers.
The COVID-19 crisis spurred precious metals stockpiling by investors looking to protect their wealth in 2020, pushing gold prices up by more than 20% to record highs.
Prices had fallen this year as economic recovery and the prospect of central banks' rate hikes reduced the appeal of bullion, which bears no interest. The emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant is boosting demand.
But beyond several financial technology firms and companies specialised in precious metals, retail investors have had few options to gain direct exposure to gold digitally through a major financial firm.
UBS is an early example of a major bank making such trading available electronically for amounts as low as $5.
British fintech firm Revolut introduced trading of exposure to gold in 2020, allowing users of the digital-only bank to buy and sell gold held at a financial institution, but without granting them access to the precious metal itself.
Under Chief Executive Ralph Hamers, UBS has been trying to win more business from the lower echelons of the global rich by improving its digital services.
Switzerland is the only market where UBS has retail customers, but globally, it has also been trying to reach private customers outside its super rich core client base, making a push into the ranks of the affluent in the United States.
The digital gold trading has been made available for all Swiss customers, UBS said with a source familiar with the project adding it may be expanded internationally in future.
Customers can trade amounts as small as 0.1 grams, or roughly 5 Swiss francs ($5.44) at current prices, up to 2 kilograms, or roughly 100,000 Swiss francs, it said on its website.
Fees range from 1.4% for transactions below 25,000 francs to 0.9% for the largest available transactions.
($1 = 0.9190 Swiss francs)
Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise