Zurich Axel Weber will hand over his position as chief supervisor of the major Swiss bank UBS to Colm Kelleher next spring. As UBS announced on Saturday, Weber will leave the board of directors after ten years at the shareholders’ meeting in April 2022. His designated successor, Kelleher, a former top manager of the US bank Morgan Stanley, has yet to be confirmed by shareholders on April 6th.
The Bloomberg news agency had previously reported on the personnel. In addition, Lukas Gähwiler is to be promoted from the Board of Directors of UBS Switzerland to the UBS Group’s supervisory body as Vice-Chief.
This put an end to months of speculation about the Weber successor. Weber, President of the Deutsche Bundesbank from 2004 to 2011, had indicated that he did not want to run for the office of Chairman of the Board of Directors again next year. In the meantime, Philipp Hildebrand, head of Blackrock Switzerland and former head of the Swiss National Bank, was traded as his successor.
The name of the outgoing Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann was also mentioned at the Zurich financial center – but his appointment was considered highly unlikely. It was only on Friday that the Reuters news agency reported that ex-Unicredit boss Jean Pierre Mustier had prospects for the top job.
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Colm Kelleher was again in discussion as chairman of the supervisory board at Deutsche Bank. According to media reports, the financial investor Cerberus is said to have campaigned for the former Morgan Stanley banker as the successor to Paul Achleitner. Born in Ireland, he worked for Morgan Stanley for 25 years and made it to number two.
During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Kelleher was Chief Financial Officer and Co-Head of Strategy. Most recently, he was responsible for the international securities business and wealth management. He retired in 2019 and has been an external consultant at Morgan Stanley ever since.
Kelleher’s appointment comes as a surprise – and it breaks with an unwritten rule: that at least either the office of CEO or Chairman of the Board of Directors of the largest Swiss bank should be exercised by a Swiss citizen.
This convention has already been suspended since Ralph Hamers was appointed head of UBS. Therefore, however, some observers in Zurich had guessed a Swiss solution for Weber’s successor.
However, Kelleher’s signing is a logical step: Axel Weber has made no secret of his admiration for Morgan Stanley. The outgoing chairman of the board of directors has always been worried about the discount in the stock market valuation of UBS compared to the US competition.
Axel Weber praised Kelleher’s “deep understanding of the global banking landscape.”
His vision for the future therefore envisaged converting UBS into a kind of green Morgan Stanley. As an expert in securities trading and asset management, Kelleher also has specialist knowledge in the two most important business areas for UBS.
Weber keeps a low profile about his own future
Until recently, some in Zurich’s financial center had thought it possible that Weber would extend the head of the UBS Board of Directors for another year. “Axel Weber needs the big stage,” says someone who has known him for a long time. So far, the economics professor and former German economist has not announced anything about his own plans for the future.
Weber leaves the bank in splendid shape: UBS is the undisputed number one in Switzerland. In the first nine months of the year alone, the bank generated net profits of over six billion dollars.
During Weber’s tenure, the bank also settled numerous legal disputes. An ongoing process of aiding and abetting tax evasion and money laundering in France should also be concluded by the time Kelleher takes office. This means that Kelleher can devote himself to the strategic development of UBS and the selection of possible takeover targets.
More: UBS makes $ 2.3 billion in profit – and attacks Wall Street banks.