In a surprise move Swiss bank UBS is to hire former Bundesbank president Axel Weber as its next chairman, taking over in two years time.
Weber dramatically quit as chief of the German central bank in February. Before that he had been considered a shoe-in to succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as president of the European Central Bank.
The move robs rival Deutsche Bank of a top candidate to replace its chief Josef Ackermann in 2013.
Weber is likely to take a more prominent role at UBS than current chairman Kaspar Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister who was coaxed out of retirement to help restore market confidence in the bank after it suffered the worst annual loss in Swiss corporate history during the financial crisis.
“Villiger was always seen as a temporary solution to help UBS get through the crisis and Axel Weber’s clearly got more of a connected network into the international banking industry,” said Cheuvreux banking analyst Christian Stark.
UBS’s smooth succession planning contrasts with the difficulties seen at its German rival Deutsche where Ackermann, chairman of the executive board, extended his contract for four years in 2009 after the bank failed to find a successor.
“I think it’s positive that they were able to announce it two years in advance. (Weber) is a strong candidate who was also in talks to become chairman of the management board at Deutsche Bank, so it’s very good news,” said Stark.