The beleaguered Swiss bank UBS seems to be trying to borrow some of the magic that allowed its arch-rival Credit Suisse to ride through the credit crunch relatively unscathed as it took the almost-unprecedented step yesterday of hiring a former head of its nemesis as its new chief executive.
Oswald Grübel, who was born in Germany, was chief executive of Credit Suisse from 2004 to 2007. During his tenure he helped guide the bank through a turnaround, hiring from rivals and boosting it in areas such as corporate finance and merger and acquisition advisory, where it had been punching below its weight.
The announcement accompanied the surprise departure of UBS's current chief executive, Marc Rohner. He has been in the position barely 18 months, during which time UBS shares have lost 85 per cent of their value.
Investors welcomed Mr Grübel's appointment as a return to conservative private banking at UBS.
Mr Rohner's departure came a week after UBS settled US criminal charges by admitting it helped American clients dodge tax, but learned US authorities were still pursuing a civil case to access more client names, an action that could threaten bank secrecy laws that underpin Switzerland's financial industry.
The US tax investigation was just the latest blow for the world's biggest banker to the rich, which has written down more during the credit crisis than any other European bank and reported the biggest loss in Swiss history for 2008.
Mr Grübel, 65, started his career at as an apprentice at Deutsche Bank in 1961. Known as a straight talker and workaholic, he is coming out of retirement: he immediately warned UBS staff to brace for more cuts. UBS announced another 2,000 investment banking job cuts this month, taking its workforce to 75,000 from a peak of 85,000.Reuse content