People Moves

UBS Brings Back Sergio Ermotti As CEO

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 29 March 2023

UBS Brings Back Sergio Ermotti As CEO

Ermotti held the chief executive post for nine years, coinciding with the 2008-2009 financial crisis and problems at UBS itself. During his tenure, UBS pivoted more towards wealth management, cut risk exposures, and consolidated its position as the dominant of the two main universal Swiss banks.

UBS has decided to bring back former CEO Sergio Ermotti to the post as Switzerland’s biggest bank pushes ahead with integrating Credit Suisse. Ermotti was chief executive of UBS for nine years until 2020, having guided that bank from the crisis period of 2008-2009 when UBS was itself under pressure.

The appointment means that Ralph Hamers, who has been CEO since November 2020, will step down. Hamers, who had joined from Netherlands’ ING, was seen very much as a figure taking UBS down a more digital path.

Shares in UBS were up 1.61 per cent around 09:30 am Swiss time, at SFr18.02 per share.

The decision over a week ago by UBS – with backing from the Swiss government and central bank – to buy embattled Credit Suisse for SFr3 billion ($3.2 billion) means that UBS is now Switzerland’s sole remaining universal bank. And the lender is now very much the face of Swiss banking globally. Credit Suisse's demise, and the failings in the US of Silicon Valley Bank, have sent shockwaves through financial markets, hitting shares of other banks and prompting concerns about the robustness of the system. In Germany, for example, shares of Deutsche Bank have fallen.

“The board made the decision to appoint Sergio P Ermotti as chief executive officer in light of UBS’s new priorities following its planned acquisition of Credit Suisse,” UBS said in a statement today. 

Hamers will remain at UBS and work alongside Ermotti as an advisor during a transition period, the bank continued. “The board wishes to express its deep gratitude to Ralph Hamers for his outstanding leadership, steering UBS to record results in two successive years, and for his instrumental role in bringing about the Credit Suisse acquisition.”

UBS was preparing to hold a press conference at 09:30 am Swiss time on the appointment (this publication may update details in due course). 

The UBS statement stressed Ermotti’s accomplishments in how he “successfully repositioned UBS following the severe challenges arising from the Global Financial Crisis.”

“In particular, he built financial strength and improved resilience by putting the firm’s leading global wealth and asset management business, and Swiss universal bank, at its core. He swiftly transformed the investment bank by cutting its footprint and achieved a profound culture change within the bank which allowed it to regain the trust of clients and other stakeholders, while restoring people’s pride in working for UBS,” it said. ”This unique experience, together with his deep understanding of the financial services industry in Switzerland and globally, make Sergio P Ermotti ideally placed to pursue the integration of Credit Suisse,” it said.

Ermotti is chairman of Swiss Re and to enable an orderly transition at that firm, he will stand for re-election at its annual general meeting on 12 April; he intends to step down after the AGM, following a short handover period.

The bank said that Hamers has “successfully managed UBS through a challenging market environment and has delivered record results in two successive years.”

“The financial performance and capital strengths of the group have allowed him to achieve record returns for shareholders through dividends and share repurchases, which has benefited the share price. Finally, Ralph was instrumental in delivering the acquisition of Credit Suisse under extreme circumstances, to the benefit of both banks and the stability of the Swiss financial system,” it added.

Hamers said: “Integrating Credit Suisse is UBS’s single most important task and I am confident that Sergio will successfully guide the bank through this next phase. I am of course sorry to leave UBS, but circumstances have changed in ways that none of us expected. I am stepping aside in the interests of the new combined entity and its stakeholders, including Switzerland and its financial sector – it has been a pleasure and privilege to lead this great bank to where it is today.”

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