UBS Said in Talks With Meissner as Potential Ermotti Successor
(Bloomberg) — UBS Group AG is in early talks with Bank of America Corp.’s ex-investment banking head Christian Meissner about joining as a potential successor to Sergio Ermotti, according to people with knowledge of the talks.
The discussions have focused on Meissner joining in a senior role that would put him in position to take over as chief executive officer, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The Swiss bank is considering other executives and hasn’t yet made any decisions, they said.
UBS is laying the groundwork to find a replacement for one of Europe’s longest-serving bank CEOs after high-profile departures in the past year, such as top dealmaker Andrea Orcel and wealth management head Juerg Zeltner. Ermotti, who joined UBS in 2011 from UniCredit SpA after a career at Merrill Lynch, steered the bank away from investment banking towards wealth management after a government bailout in 2008.
UBS has been intensifying succession planning for Ermotti, with Chairman Axel Weber said to favor an outside candidate for the role, people familiar with the matter said last month. Ermotti also told investors recently that the company is working on a plan, according to the people. The bank is also said to be looking at succession for some on the board of directors, and is considering strengthening the executive board, the people said.
Meissner, a veteran of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., joined Bank of America in 2010 and took the helm of its investment banking unit the next year. He left amid a string of recent dealmaker departures that came as some expressed frustration over the bank’s limited risk appetite.
Meissner’s name was among those floated earlier this year when Deutsche Bank AG sought a new chief executive officer. The German lender eventually awarded the job to an internal candidate, Christian Sewing.
Meissner declined to comment. A spokesman for UBS declined to comment on individuals, and referred to an earlier statement in which it said that “succession planning has been and will continue to be part of our regular ongoing run-the-bank operation.”
“There are no changes to what the chairman and the CEO have previously communicated with regard to the planning, process and timing of any succession,” UBS said in the statement.
Weber told Manager Magazin last year that he’d like to stay in his position alongside Ermotti until at least 2022, and said recently that the bank has a strong talent bench. Asked about succession at the bank’s investor day in October, Ermotti said it was a question for the board, adding “as long as I have the energy and the passion for what I do and people believe that it’s okay, then I will do it.”
Martin Blessing and Tom Naratil, wealth management co-heads, had been seen as the internal front-runners to succeed Ermotti. A successor would most likely come from within, Ermotti told Switzerland’s Bilanz magazine in February. “Something probably would not have gone well if my successor came from outside,” he said at the time.