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Before your very eyes

The rise of UBS to the top of Euromoney's foreign exchange market share ranking this year proves how ill advised it is for any bank to declare itself the master of any financial market. Even in those sectors where a handful of banks appear to have achieved unassailable pre-eminence, newcomers can always break in. Seats at the top table are never reserved in perpetuity.

In 2001, according to calculations based on responses from 659 large institutional customers, the top six banks between them commanded a 41.5% share of the foreign exchange market.

UBS Warburg wasn't one of them.

It lay in seventh position with a market share of just 3.55% compared with market leader Citigroup's 9.74%. Two years later it has hit the top spot with a market share of 11.5%. This is based on replies from 1,901 customers responsible for $17.1 trillion in annual forex business. (We would ask the critics of our poll - bankers just hate being measured - to show us a more robust one.)

How has UBS done this? And what broad lessons can the industry draw?

Three things stand out. First, senior management at UBS made a clear assessment of the costs and benefits of competing in the forex market three years ago, contemplating a complete withdrawal, pursuing a niche strategy or pushing for a top-three spot.

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