Colm Kelleher to be the new chairman of UBS

Colm Kelleher, a Bandon native, will take over as chairman of UBS next year when current chairman Axel Weber steps down.

Former Morgan Stanley executive Colm Kelleher will succeed Axel Weber as chairman of UBS Group AG, giving the Swiss bank a renowned Wall Street name to lead it.

Mr. Kelleher worked at Morgan Stanley for 30 years, rising to the position of president in June 2019. During the 2008 financial crisis, he served as the bank’s chief financial officer and headed Morgan Stanley’s wealth-management unit, a direct competitor to UBS.

If chosen at a shareholder meeting on April 6, he will succeed Mr. Weber, who has served as chairman of UBS for the past ten years. Mr. Weber’s nomination to the board of directors in 2012 was a trophy hire for the bank, similar to Mr. Kelleher’s, because Mr. Weber was a former head of Germany’s central bank and because rival Deutsche Bank AG was also recruiting him.

Mr. Weber, together with former Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti, were praised for repositioning UBS as a global wealth manager serving billionaires and entrepreneurs after the financial crisis. During the pandemic, when financial markets soared and all kinds of assets appreciated in value, that mix of enterprises held up admirably.

UBS announced in October that it would launch a digital bank in the United States next year, aimed at customers with assets of between $250,000 and $2 million, putting it in direct rivalry with Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch.

Mr. Kelleher grew up in England after being born in Ireland. He ascended to No. 2 at Morgan Stanley by tightening operational controls to make the firm safer, and he outlasted rivals while the bank’s internal power struggles played out. He urged the firm’s retail brokers and investment bankers to collaborate more closely, comparable to UBS’ attempts to boost business between its wealth management and investment banking divisions.

Lukas Gähwiler was also named vice chairman of UBS’ board of directors. Mr. Gähwiler is the chairman of UBS Switzerland AG and was previously the president of the Swiss bank of UBS.

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