UBS Wealth Management Americas, a unit of UBS AG, reported a fourth-quarter loss of 33 million Swiss francs (about $34.6 million) early Monday, after putting aside about 152 million Swiss francs for litigation related to its sales of auction-rate securities.

The fourth-quarter results were a slight improvement from those of the third quarter, when the group had a loss of 47 million Swiss francs, but they were also down sharply from a gain of 178 million Swiss francs a year ago.

In terms of financial advisors, the group – now led by Merrill Lynch veteran Robert McCann – has 6,796 reps. This is up 13 advisors from the third quarter but off last year’s headcount by 288.

Overall employment for the unit, including support and management staff for the unit is 16,330.

Still, net new client assets grew by 3.4 billion Swiss francs, or $3.6 billion, compared with outflows of 12 billion francs, $12.5 billion, in the year-ago quarter, and net inflows of 300 million Swiss francs in the third quarter.

For the U.S. advisors only, net inflows were 3.8 billion Swiss francs, up from zero in the third quarter and outflows of 11.3 billion Swiss francs in the year-ago period.

Including interest and dividend income, U.S.-based FAs had net inflows of 9.2 billion Swiss francs in the three months ending Dec. 31 vs. inflows of 4.3 billion Swiss francs in the third quarter and outflows of 6.2 billion Swiss francs in the year-ago period.

“This was the result of an improvement in net inflows from financial advisors employed with UBS for more than one year, the fourth-consecutive quarter of positive net new money for the population,” the company said in a report.

Also, despite the rising number of advisors, departing FAs remain an issue for the smallest of the wirehouse firms.  “In addition, improved net inflows from financial advisor recruiting were partially offset by attrition,” UBS added in its fourth-quarter report.

Spending on advisor compensation increased slightly to 517 million Swiss francs from 498 million Swiss francs in the third quarter and rose significantly from 423 million Swiss francs in the year-ago period.

Recruiting commitments for the unit, though, dropped slightly to 141 million Swiss francs from 148 million Swiss francs in the third quarter and 150 million Swiss francs last year.

Revenue was roughly flat with the earlier quarter at 1.4 billion Swiss francs, or $1.5 billion.

Total client assets have also remained flat at 738 billion Swiss francs – roughly 109 million Swiss francs, or $110 million per FA. 

Read AdvisorOne's 2010 Q4 earnings calendar for the financial sector for release dates and links to earnings stories.