UBS woos Deutsche Bank head as chairman

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The Independent Online
UBS HAS approached Josef Ackerman, the head of investment banking at Deutsche Bank, to take over as chairman in the wake of last week's departure by Mathis Caballiavetta, who quit over his role in the bank's loss- making investment in Long-Term Capital Management, the troubled hedge fund.

Dr Ackerman, a Swiss national, joined Deutsche two years ago after losing out at UBS' arch-rival Credit Suisse in the boardroom fighting that followed the merger with insurer Winterthur.

He has been mentioned as a potential successor at Deutsche Bank to the current chief executive, Rolf Breuer, who has been criticised over losses in Russia that have severely impacted third-quarter earnings.

Among other candidates being touted are former SBC chairman Georges Blum. SBC merged with UBS last year and Mr Blum is now in Washington with the International Institute of Finance.

Following the decision to fold Morgan Grenfell into Deutsche's Frankfurt- based investment banking business, Dr Ackerman has taken advantage of the situation to strengthen his grip on the operation.

Staff at UBS are braced for cutbacks in the wake of last Friday's declaration by Marcel Ospel, chief executive, that the bank intends to focus more on areas of business with a "justifiable level of risk".

Capital allocated to some trading activities judged high risk may be cut back by as much as 75 per cent. "Certain high risk and derivatives areas may not get the credit lines they currently enjoy," said one insider. "Everyone is bracing themselves."

Dr Breuer last night called for a new organisation to bring together banks and governments to forestall financial crisis.

"I'm in favour of a permanent standing consultative committee, including the international institutions as well as participants from the market, meeting together at regular intervals," he said. The meetings would be "an open discussion to come to a perceptive analysis of the hazards".

As a quid pro quo of being involved at an earlier stage, banks might also have to agree to share some of the burden of resolving such a crisis. "In certain cases it might become necessary to issue a moratorium by mutual agreement," he said.

Dr Breuer said he expected interest rates to fall in Europe once the euro is adopted. The cut in interest rates by the Federal Reserve in the US gave "an important signal" but there was "room for more manoeuvre".