UBS overhaul ups pressure on private banking head

Wed May 8, 2013 6:31am EDT
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By Katharina Bart

ZURICH (Reuters) - In a 16th century Swiss castle in March the boss of UBS challenged the head of its private bank to explain his plans for overhauling the business of managing the money of the rich.

Juerg Zeltner has been under the spotlight since last October, when chief executive Sergio Ermotti said UBS would partially withdraw from loss-making investment banking and focus more on the profitable wealth management arm.

Following scandals that tarnished the bank's reputation, Ermotti is trying to change the culture from one where division heads were left to their own devices if they delivered on targets, to one where their strategies are reviewed and tested by peers.

The 46-year-old Zeltner, whose four years in private banking make him one of the longest-serving executives in the 11-person top management team, is under scrutiny.

"He's increasingly being challenged and can no longer simply run his own fiefdom," a bank insider said.

Zeltner's division is expected to deliver the bulk of UBS's profit within three years and rehabilitate the lender.

This is a tall order when Switzerland's traditional model of bank secrecy is under attack from tax authorities in the United States and elsewhere, deterring wealthy depositors.

"The private bank has increasingly come into sharper focus for Sergio since the beginning of this year," said a high-ranking UBS manager, who declined to be named.   Continued...

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at the bank's headquarters in Zurich April 30, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann