UBS was a consolation prize for Sergio Ermotti, who joined the Swiss bank on April 1 after being passed over for the No. 2 job at Italy's UniCredit SpA. Europe's biggest banking casualty during the financial crisis, UBS had already weathered a tax-evasion scandal, a government bailout and tough new Swiss Tier 1 capital ratios when it stumbled yet again this summer over a rogue London trader who somehow managed to hide $2.3 billion in losses.
In September, with euro-zone woes mounting, those troubles ushered popular chief executive Oswald Grübel out the door (to the chagrin of many analysts). The bank named Ermotti, who had been overseeing Europe, acting CEO.
UBS named him permanent CEO on Nov. 15, and he soon unveiled a broad overhaul of UBS's investment bank. Roughly 2,000 jobs will be slashed, and risk-weighted assets in the group will fall by nearly 50%. Ermotti also plans significant cuts at the bank's capital-heavy fixed-income, currencies and commodities, or FICC, unit. A Swiss national, Ermotti, 51, started his career with Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1987, serving as co-head of global equity markets from 2001 to 2003. Ermotti's strategy for turning around UBS won praise from some analysts, but others hoped for even deeper retrenchment at the investment bank. In May former Deutsche Bundesbank president Axel Weber will take the UBS chairman's seat, a year earlier than expected. He could nudge Ermotti to do more to bolster the UBS balance sheet.