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UBS names Dutchman Ralph Hamers as new chief executive

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Ralph Hamers at COP 24, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Katowice, Poland on 4 December, 2018. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

UBS (UBSG.SW) on Thursday confirmed it has poached ING (ING) chief executive Ralph Hamers to lead the Swiss bank.

UBS said Hamers would take over from chief executive Sergio Ermotti on 1 November 2020. Hamers will join the bank’s board in September ahead of the official hand over.

Netherlands-born Hamers has been at Dutch bank ING since 1991 and became chief executive in 2013. He has pushed the bank to go digital and analysts at Barclays said he was “well regarded” in the industry. However, ING shares have dropped almost 30% over the last five years.

UBS chairman Axel Weber said Hamers was “a seasoned and well-respected banker with proven expertise in digital transformation” and was “the right CEO to lead our business into its next chapter”.

“As the industry undergoes fundamental change, Ralph is the person to lead UBS’s continued transformation,” Weber said in a statement.

Shares in UBS jumped 1.8% in Zurich after UBS confirmed Hamers.

Hamers said he was “honoured” to take charge of the Swiss bank.

“I have long admired the firm’s transformation under the leadership of Axel and Sergio,” he said in statement. He said the bank had “outstanding” franchises and an “incredibly strong UBS brand”.

UBS’s announcement came after the Financial Times reported late on Wednesday that UBS had selected Hamers.

Outgoing UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti. (MICHELE LIMINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ermotti, who has been in charge of the bank since 2011, thanked staff and said: “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.

“In the months ahead, my colleagues and I will continue to execute our strategy and deliver against our ambitious targets, and we look forward to working with Ralph to ensure a seamless transition.”

Ermotti helped UBS rebuild in the wake of the financial crisis and has refocused the bank on its roots in wealth management and private banking. However, shares have slumped over the last two years and profits fell last year.

Weber thanked Ermotti for his leadership and said he “created substantial value for our shareholders”. Analysts at Barclays suggested Ermotti could take over from Weber as chairman when Weber’s term comes to an end in 2022.

While there had been speculation Ermotti could leave this year, Barclays’s team of banking analysts said Hamers appointment was a surprise.

“None of the investors we had spoken to had suggested Ralph Hamers as one of the potential candidates,” lead analyst Amit Goel and team wrote in a note sent to clients.

Goel noted that while Hamers has good digital credentials, he “does not have experience in running a Global Investment Bank, or Wealth Manager”. Goel said investors were also more concerned about cost cutting than digital transformation.

Hamers appointment comes just a week after rival Credit Suisse changed chief executives. Tidjane Thiam was forced to step down over a spying scandal at the bank and was replaced by insider Thomas Gottstein.