Career banker Sergio Ermotti returns to the fold at UBS
The UBS board, in bringing back Sergio Ermotti as chief executive, has gone for someone who knows the bank well. Ermotti held the role from 2011 to 2020 and won plaudits for leading its recovery from the financial crisis.
The Swiss-born 62-year-old is a career banker, having completed stints at Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and UniCredit before moving to UBS. As chief executive, his main task was to solidify the bank after a SFr6bn ($6.52bn) bailout by the Swiss government during the financial crisis and a $2.3bn rogue trading scandal. He scaled back the investment bank — although did not close it altogether despite some calls for him to do so — and built up the core wealth management operation.
“My best decision was not to follow consensus . . . I’m sure I wouldn’t be the CEO today if I had done it,” he told the Financial Times in an interview in 2020. “As a leader, your first instinct is usually the right one.”
The share price was at about the same level when he left the job as it was when he started, but that compares favourably with a drop of almost 60 per cent in the value of Credit Suisse over the same period.
Ermotti stood down in 2020, with the words: “After nearly a decade as CEO, now is the right time to write my next chapter. UBS is in great shape, enjoys maximum strategic flexibility and is well positioned for sustainable growth.”
Ralph Hamers took over from Ermotti in 2020 and will stand aside now as the Swiss banker takes back the reins.
Since stepping away from UBS, Ermotti has kept himself busy with board seats at fashion group Ermenegildo Zegna and at Innosuisse, the Swiss innovation agency. He has also been chair of reinsurance group Swiss Re, although his time there has not been without controversy. Last year, proxy adviser ISS recommended that investors vote against Ermotti’s re-election because of a lack of gender diversity on the board.
Despite these distractions, he is relishing his return to the top job at UBS. “The task at hand is an urgent and challenging one,” he said in a statement on Wednesday, promising to deliver “the best possible outcome for our clients, our employees, our shareholders and the Swiss government”.
Sergio Ermotti CV
Born in 1960
1987 — 2004 Merrill Lynch
2005 — 2007 Head of markets and investment banking at UniCredit
2007 — 2011 Deputy chief executive of UniCredit
2011 — 2020 Chief executive of UBS
2021 Becomes chair of Swiss Re and a board member at Ermenegildo Zegna
2023 Joins board of Innosuisse, the Swiss innovation agency
2023 Reappointed CEO of UBS