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UBS revamps top management; brings in potential new CEO

It makes former Credit Suisse banker Iqbal Khan co-head of its wealth-management business

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Mr Khan, who was head of Credit Suisse's international wealth management unit, left the bank following a rift with chief executive Tidjane Thiam.

Zurich

UBS Group has overhauled its top ranks in a sweeping reshuffle, hiring ex-Credit Suisse Group banker Iqbal Khan for a key role that puts him on track to be a potential successor to chief executive officer Sergio Ermotti.

Mr Khan becomes co-head of the wealth-management business with Tom Naratil, replacing ex-Commerzbank CEO Martin Blessing, 56, who leaves at the end of the year, Zurich-based UBS said on Thursday.

As part of the changes, Ulrich Koerner, president of asset management and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), will step down. His responsibilities will be divided between Suni Harford, who takes over asset management and Sabine Keller-Busse, who becomes president of EMEA.

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The revamp brings in younger executives to the management board. It also positions Mr Khan as a future CEO candidate after chairman Axel Weber said earlier this year that the bank was in early-stage succession planning. UBS has been seeking to replenish its management board after the departure of investment banking head Andrea Orcel and former wealth head Juerg Zeltner, and to revive a share price that has underperformed its biggest rival this year.

Mr Blessing's departure had been widely expected; the global wealth-management unit has posted erratic results since the two former wealth businesses were combined into a single unit last year. Clients pulled US$1.7 billion from the unit in the second quarter, when earnings were lower than expected.

Mr Blessing had earlier been seen as a contender to ultimately succeed Mr Ermotti when he was appointed after about eight years in charge at Germany's No 2 bank; he cemented his reputation by shrinking the bank's pile of bad loans and restoring the dividend. At UBS, he was known for a more formal approach that has been seen as less effective in a business focused on servicing the needs of the world's wealthy.

Mr Khan's appointments ends speculation about his future after a rift with Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam prompted his departure from the Swiss bank. He had joined it in his late 30s after a rapid ascent through the ranks of Ernst & Young's Zurich-based assurance division, where he audited UBS Group. He joined Credit Suisse in 2013 and was named head of the bank's international wealth management unit.

The bank may now be concerned he'll seek to hire former colleagues.

When Mr Thiam joined Credit Suisse and revamped his executive team, Mr Khan was already one of the most influential people there. His career accelerated after Mr Thiam promoted him to lead international wealth management. Mr Khan made a name for himself by helping to fold worldwide asset management and private-banking activities into a single unit, and helped build up capital markets and a lending platform for billionaire clients.

Mr Khan's relationship with Mr Thiam had soured in recent months, according to people with knowledge of the matter. When a corporate reorganisation came in February, Mr Khan's brief stayed the same, while two colleagues were elevated to the executive committee.

Tensions mounted as his name surfaced in media reports as a candidate to replace Bernhard Hodler as head of Julius Baer, but that job eventually went to Philipp Rickenbacher, a little-known internal candidate. BLOOMBERG