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ZURICH, Nov 20 (Reuters) - UBS named former Morgan
Stanley President Colm Kelleher on Saturday as its
surprise pick to succeed Axel Weber as chairman of the world's
biggest wealth manager when his mandate ends in April.
Kelleher, an Irishman from County Cork, retired from his
post at Morgan Stanley in 2019 after three decades at the U.S.
investment bank, including as finance director during the global
financial crisis, but stayed on as a special adviser.
UBS has been keen to hire a chairman with investment
banking experience to work closely with former ING
boss Ralph Hamers, who became chief executive of Switzerland's
biggest bank last year and pledged to improve its digital
services after a career focused primarily on retail banking.
"UBS is pleased to propose a Board member and future
Chairman who has a deep understanding of the global banking
landscape," Weber said in a statement. "His more than 30 years
of leadership experience in banking and excellent relationships
around the world make Colm an ideal fit for UBS."
The bank had been aiming to pick a new chairman by the end
of the year and shareholders must now approve the appointment of
Kelleher at their annual meeting on April 6.
During the financial crisis, Kelleher drastically shrank
Morgan Stanley's balance sheet and converted it to a traditional
bank holding company so it could access funding from the U.S.
Federal Reserve as well as negotiating a $9 billion investment
from Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
UBS also said it would nominate Lukas Gaehwiler for election
to its board as vice chairman.
The selections of Kelleher and Gaehwiler come as several of
Europe's biggest banks pick outsiders from other countries to
take the helm.
Cross-town rival Credit Suisse brought in Lloyds
Bank's former Portuguese boss Antonio Horta-Osorio as chairman
this year to lead it through an overhaul after a string of
scandals that have cost it billions of dollars.
Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, said on Friday that it
would nominate Dutch businessman Alexander Wynaendts as the next
chairman of its supervisory board following a turbulent decade
for Germany's largest lender.
The nominations have been surprise steps for some banks
whose identity and leadership have been closely associated with
their home countries. UBS, however, made such a move in 2012
with the selection of Weber, who is from Germany and previously
served as president of the country's central bank.
Three sources told Reuters this week that UBS's board had
included former UniCredit Chief Executive Jean-Pierre
Mustier in a shortlist of possible candidates.
A source close to Mustier, however, said the 60-year-old
Frenchman had no immediate plans to leave the Pegasus Europe
special purpose acquisition vehicle he set up and
invested in after leaving UniCredit a year ago.
If confirmed, Kelleher will take the reins of a Swiss bank
with healthy accounts.
In October, UBS posted its highest quarterly profit over the
past 11 years, with trading by the world's ultra-rich fuelling a
23% rise in fee income.
With Gaehwiler's addition to the board, UBS will also be
restoring its second highest non-executive role to a Swiss
national, succeeding Jeremy Anderson who will remain on the
board as an independent director.
Gaehwiler, currently chairman of the bank's Swiss entity -
UBS Switzerland AG - would be tasked with representing UBS in
the country's most important associations, financial industry
organisations and in political interaction, the bank said
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in Zurich and Francois
Murphy in Vienna; Additional reporting by Akriti Sharma in
Bengaluru; Editing by David Clarke)