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Philipp who? Julius Baer surprises with insider pick for CEO

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Mr Rickenbacher is taking over from Bernhard Hodler(above), the former compliance chief who helped clean up the bank after a money laundering scandal that cast a shadow over the boom years under his predecessor.

[ZURICH] Julius Baer Group Ltd appointed little-known internal candidate Philipp Rickenbacher as chief executive officer in a move likely to be seen as another step back from the breakneck expansion under Boris Collardi.

Mr Rickenbacher is taking over from Bernhard Hodler, the former compliance chief who helped clean up the bank after a money laundering scandal that cast a shadow over the boom years under his predecessor. Mr Collardi spearheaded growth through a dozen acquisitions and joint ventures, hiring hundreds of new client managers and more than doubled the money it oversaw.

Mr Rickenbacher, 48, is not a well-known executive in Zurich's financial circles, though he followed a well-trodden path for Switzerland's managerial elite, including a master's degree from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and a stint as a consultant at McKinsey & Company. He's been at Julius Baer for 15 years, including three on the management board. While these qualities may give him the analytical skills for complex topics and develop a new strategy, it may have given him less experience with clients.

"For me its kind of the sensible choice," Michael Kunz, an analyst at Zuercher Kantonalbank, said by phone. "Collardi was going hell for leather and put Julius Baer on the global map for wealth management. Now they need to clean up - if you settle down a bit its probably not a bad choice." "

The appointment puts an end to speculation that Iqbal Khan might be chosen to head Julius Baer. Mr Khan abruptly quit as Credit Suisse Group AG's head of wealth management last week with no indication about his future role. Mr Rickenbacher's appointments begs the question over Mr Khan's next appointment, amid speculation that he's been in talks with UBS Group AG.

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The new CEO appointment may also be a disappointment for Yves Robert-Charrue, who had been seen as an internal frontrunner to succeed Mr Hodler, according to people familiar with the matter. The 46 year old chief of Europe and Julius Baer management board member had built up the key business by going deeper into regional markets of the UK and Germany to win over local millionaires and boost assets under management.

Mr Hodler, 59, has seen a slowdown in inflows since replacing Mr Collardi at the helm of the Swiss firm in late 2017. Promoted to stabilise the bank and root out bad clients, the former chief risk officer steered it through a rough 2018, a year its shares fell the most among Switzerland's largest listed companies. Mr Hodler will retire as of Aug 31, Julius Baer said in a statement on Monday.

"Bernhard Hodler was exactly the right man at the right time," Julius Baer Chairman Romeo Lacher said in the statement. "I would like to thank him for initiating this transformation, driving the bank's strategic agenda with a sharper focus on efficiency and risk management."

While the shares have rebounded this year, the new CEO will face big challenges. In February, the bank cut financial targets and pledged cost reductions that include eliminating about 140 jobs. Julius Baer has seen series of defections to rivals over the last several months, including a group of managers who handled the bank's business in Brazil.

Julius Baer shares have gained about 30 per cent this year in Zurich trading, after dropping by 41 per cent last year. The stock dropped as much as 5.5 per cent on Monday, the most in more than seven months.

"We believe the market had been quietly anticipating Iqbal Khan as the next CEO, leaving sentiment down on the news," Thomas Hallett, an analyst at KBW, said in a note.

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