The Swiss bank UBS has announced the surprise return of Sergio Ermotti to oversee the takeover of its rival Credit Suisse, amid global concerns over the stability of the banking industry.
Ermotti served as chief executive from 2011 until 2020, overseeing UBS’s recovery from the global financial crisis. He will take over again on 5 April, when his main task will be to implement the complex merger with Credit Suisse, which was forced through by Swiss financial regulators in an attempt to prevent a chaotic collapse.
UBS took over Credit Suisse on Sunday in a £2.65bn deal that has dealt a heavy blow to the reputation of Switzerland’s banking industry. The Credit Suisse turmoil was preceded by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank this month. Regulators and investors around the world have been watching closely amid concerns that the financial difficulties could spread across the global banking system.
The bank’s decision to turn back to its former chief executive means the current boss, Ralph Hamers, will step aside after less than three years in the job. He will serve a short period as an “adviser” alongside Ermotti.
The bank said the takeover process meant it had new priorities for which Ermotti would be better placed, citing his experience in cutting back UBS’s investment bank.
Hamers, who had been a surprise choice as chief executive in 2020 because of his lack of investment banking and wealth management experience, said: “I am stepping aside in the interests of the new combined entity and its stakeholders, including Switzerland and its financial sector.”
Colm Kelleher, UBS’s chair, told a press conference on Wednesday that parts of Credit Suisse had a bad culture that UBS did not want to import, with the top priority being to stabilise the situation, Reuters reported.
Speaking alongside Kelleher, Hamers said one of Ermotti’s priorities would be reducing the size of Credit Suisse’s investment banking activities, which were not a core focus for UBS. Ermotti said the bank would not rush into making decisions.
Kelleher said he wanted to “express my deep respect and gratitude for all that Ralph has achieved over the last two-and-a-half years and for his instrumental role in delivering the Credit Suisse deal, as well as his understanding of the current situation and willingness to step down. While the acquisition will support UBS’s existing strategy, it imposes new priorities on us.”
Since leaving UBS, Ermotti has served on the boards of the Italian manufacturing firm Investindustrial, the Italian fashion group Ermenegildo Zegna and the Swiss development agency Innosuisse. He remains the chair of the board of the insurer Swiss Re but will stand down after its annual meeting on 12 April.
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