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UBS rehires chief who axed 11,000 jobs to steer Credit Suisse takeover

Former CEO and newly appointed advisor Ralph Hamers, adjusts the jacket of Sergio Ermotti, newly rehired CEO of UBS Group AG, while sitting next to UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher - REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
Former CEO and newly appointed advisor Ralph Hamers, adjusts the jacket of Sergio Ermotti, newly rehired CEO of UBS Group AG, while sitting next to UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher - REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

UBS has drafted in its former chief executive who axed 11,000 jobs in the wake of the financial crisis to steer the bank through the takeover of Credit Suisse.

Sergio Ermotti, who led the Swiss lender for nine years until 2020, will replace Ralph Hamers less than two weeks after regulators engineered an emergency takeover by UBS of its fiercest rival.

62-year-old Mr Ermotti oversaw a major restructuring of UBS’ investment bank to help it recover from the financial crisis, which included cutting around 11,000 jobs between 2011 and 2015.

It is expected that UBS’ rescue of its beleaguered Swiss rival will result in tens of thousands of job cuts in the coming years.

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Colm Kelleher, UBS’s chairman, said Credit Suisse staff would face a “culture filter” to ensure “we do not import something into our ecosystem that causes issues.”

The bank said the change in management came “in light of the new challenges and priorities facing UBS after the announcement of the acquisition”.

It added: “This unique experience, together with his deep understanding of the financial services industry in Switzerland and globally, make Sergio Ermotti ideally placed to pursue the integration of Credit Suisse.”

The shock move comes after UBS agreed to snap up Credit Suisse in a £2.6bn deal orchestrated by Swiss authorities to avoid the latter failing and precipitating a wider crisis in the global banking industry.

Mr Hamers, who succeeded Mr Ermotti, said he was “stepping aside in the interests of the new combined entity and its stakeholders, including Switzerland and its financial sector”.

Mr Hamers was hired from Dutch lender ING to help digitise and modernise UBS.

He added: “Integrating Credit Suisse is UBS’s single most important task and I am confident that Sergio will successfully guide the bank through this next phase. I am of course sorry to leave UBS, but circumstances have changed in ways that none of us expected.”

Immediate challenges for Mr Ermotti, who currently serves as the chairman of insurer Swiss Re, will include laying off thousands of staff, cutting back Credit Suisse's investment bank and reassuring wealthy clients that UBS remains the best place to deposit their cash.

Mr Ermotti earned £3.4m last year in his role as chairman of Swiss Re.

UBS shares rose 3.7pc in Zurich following the news of Mr Ermotti’s appointment.

Mr Kelleher said Mr Hamers had put the bank “in a position to stabilise Credit Suisse and ensure a successful integration”.

He added: “While the acquisition will support UBS’s existing strategy, it imposes new priorities on us.”

Separately, the US Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday claimed that Credit Suisse is continuing to help wealthy Americans hide assets from the taxman almost a decade after a unit of the Swiss lender pleaded guilty to tax evasion conspiracy.

The committee said it uncovered major violations of the $2.6bn (£2.1bn) plea deal the bank struck with the US Justice Department in 2014, in a further blow to the lender.

The report cited “what may be an ongoing criminal tax conspiracy” involving nearly $100m in secret offshore accounts belonging to a family of dual US-Latin American citizens.

Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the committee, said: “At the centre of this investigation are greedy Swiss bankers and catnapping government regulators, and the result appears to be a massive, ongoing conspiracy to help ultra-wealthy US citizens to evade taxes and rip off their fellow Americans.”

Credit Suisse said it does not tolerate tax evasion, adding that its new management is “actively cooperating” with the Justice Department.

It said: “Our clear policy is to close undeclared accounts when identified, and to discipline any employee who fails to comply with bank policy or falls short of Credit Suisse’s standards of conduct.”