Korner takes his corner at UBS

Ulrich Korner, a Credit Suisse stalwart, joins colleague Grubel at UBS as group COO with a mandate to streamline the Swiss bank.

UBS has hired former Credit Suisse bigwig Ulrich Korner as its group chief operating officer and chief executive officer of the corporate centre. Korner will have a broad remit which seems focused on cost-cutting.

UBS also announced yesterday it will integrate its group-wide infrastructure and service functions into a corporate centre and will centralise the management of its control functions namely finance, risk, legal and compliance.

Korner has been appointed group COO and a member of the group executive board effective immediately.

Korner joined Credit Suisse in 1998. He was a member of the bank's executive management for the last five years and held various management positions, including chief financial officer and COO. He resigned from Credit Suisse in August 2008.

The appointment shows that UBS continues to strengthen its base in its home market, following a trend set with recent appointments. Korner is a German-Swiss dual citizen and at Credit Suisse was most recently responsible for the entire Swiss client business as CEO of the Switzerland region.

Earlier this year UBS appointed Kaspar Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister, as its chairman to replace Peter Kurer. Before he left, Kurer announced a restructuring during which he said he intended to "refocus UBS on its Swiss core business, its international wealth management franchise in Switzerland and on the growth potential of its onshore business globally".

Kurer also hired Oswald Grubel as CEO after Marcel Rohner announced his departure in January. Grubel too is a veteran Credit Suisse hand having spent almost four decades at the bank before he retired in 2007. Grubel has obviously decided he needs to bring in people who he has prior experience working with, as he sets about effecting the changes necessary to continue to bring UBS back on track.

Grubel's views on his new hire were apparent from his written statement, which said Korner "possesses a critical mindset and sharp intellect".

Korner's experience in restructuring and as a turnaround manager is likely to stand him in good stead at UBS. Cost-cutting measures are imperative for the Swiss bank, which made a loss of $17 billion in 2008. Most investment bankers expect investment banking revenues to continue to shrink through 2009. And in the more traditional UBS businesses -- asset management and wealth management -- assets under management have fallen, both as a result of declining asset values and, specific to UBS, because clients are concerned about the future of the Swiss firm.

UBS says its new corporate centre will comprise all group-wide services and infrastructure, namely information technology, human resources, procurement, real estate and facility management. The measure is intended to yield cost savings and reductions in headcount are likely to follow. Simultaneously, UBS has strengthened its finance and risk control as well as its legal and compliance functions. It has also centralised management of these functions with the intention of tightening control.

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