People Moves

UBS Names New Chief Executive As Ermotti Steps Down

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 20 February 2020

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Lugano, Switzerland-born Sergio Ermotti is standing down after a decade at the world's largest wealth manager. He has been instrumental in reshaping the bank after what had been a testing period. The new CEO comes from ING, the Dutch group.

Sergio Ermotti, who has been chief executive of UBS for the past nine years, is standing down after a period that has seen the bank bounce back from a series of problems. Ralph Hamers, formerly of ING Group, will become the new CEO from 1 November this year.

To ensure that the transition goes smoothly, Hamers will join the Swiss bank’s group executive board from 1 September this year, UBS said in a statement today.

There had been media and industry speculation for some time that Ermotti, who has been in the post for the past nine years and with UBS since 2010, would depart to pursue new challenges. A former long-standing banker at Merrill Lynch, Ermotti joined Zurich-based UBS in 2010 as chairman and CEO of Europe, Middle East and Africa and a member of the group executive Board. He had previously been deputy group CEO at Italy’s UniCredit. He was at Merrill Lynch for 18 years.

When Ermotti first became CEO, it was on an interim basis but he was soon made permanent chief. He had filled the gap left when Oswald Grübel resigned from the post at what had been a tough time for UBS. In 2009, Switzerland’s largest bank was embroiled with the US over offshore bank accounts, later paying legal settlements to end the matter. The bank had been bailed out by the Swiss government amidst the financial crisis of 2008 (the money was quickly repaid) and had to heavily restructure. The group pivoted towards wealth management – now the world’s largest – and reduced its investment banking exposures. Such an approach has been taken by a number of other firms.

UBS chairman Axel Weber paid tribute to Ermotti.

“The board sincerely thanks Sergio for his exceptional commitment and contributions to the success of the business since taking office almost nine years ago. I would personally like to thank Sergio for our partnership during this entire period and for his constructive collaboration during the succession process,” Weber said. 

“Sergio led the transformation of UBS in the wake of the global financial crisis. Today, UBS is the world’s leading wealth manager and the leading bank in Switzerland, supported by a global investment bank with world-leading equity research capability, and a large-scale and diversified asset manager with a strong focus on sustainable investing. During Sergio’s tenure, UBS created substantial value for our shareholders, as tangible book value including dividend distribution has grown at 6 per cent annually and shareholders have received over USD 15 billion dividends and $1.5 billion in share-buybacks,” he said.

Swiss banking is in the news a great deal at present, even beyond the busy period of annual reports on financial results. UBS’s biggest local rival, Credit Suisse, last week announced that Tidjane Thiam, had resigned and was replaced by Thomas Gottstein. (The change came in the wake of a spying scandal in which a former senior Credit Suisse banker, who had left for UBS, was followed by people sent by his erstwhile employer's chief operating officer. Thiam's departure change was also controversial because he had presided over a strong turnaround in Credit Suisse's fortunes having taken up the CEO slot four years ago.)

New man
The new CEO at UBS has had a long career at Netherlands-based ING Group, joining it in 1991. Hamers progressed through a series of roles across business segments and geographies before becoming CEO in 2013. Hamers holds a master of science in business econometrics and operations research from Tilburg University in the Netherlands and is chairman of the European Banking Group, the European banking association.

"Ralph is the right CEO to lead our business into its next chapter. A seasoned and well-respected banker with proven expertise in digital transformation, Ralph has an impressive track record leading ING Group for more than six years,” Weber said.

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