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UBS taps ING veteran Ralph Hamers as next CEO

Daniel Roberts
Editor-at-Large

The next CEO of Swiss bank UBS will be ING CEO Ralph Hamers, UBS announced on Wednesday night, after the news was first reported by the Financial Times. Shares of UBS rose 1% on the news in premarket Thursday.

Hamers (pronounced “hommers”) will replace Sergio Ermotti, who has been UBS CEO since 2011.

Ermotti was credited with helping UBS rebuild after the financial crisis, and in August he engineered a shakeup that included hiring the banker Iqbal Khan from Credit Suisse and naming him co-head of UBS’s wealth business, which led many to speculate Khan could be the next CEO.

But UBS shares have slumped 32% over the last two years, and in 2020 are up a meager 1.8%. Profit at the bank’s wealth management unit has taken a hit, leading the FT to ask last year whether UBS is “losing its edge in investment banking.”

The dip in profit was a reversal from a previous hot streak that followed Ermotti’s efforts to slim down UBS. And Hamers, too, oversaw a lot of slimming at ING Group, which might make him just the right hire for UBS.

Dutch banking and insurance group ING CEO Ralph Hamers. (NICOLAS LAMBERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Hamers was at ING for a 29 years and worked in nearly every division of the company. He became CEO in 2013. In 2008, ING took a 10 billion euro bailout from the Dutch government, and began to shed businesses to become more of a pure-play retail bank.

In 2011, it sold ING Direct (credited with being the first example of online banking) to Capital One, which named that division Capital One 360. Then in 2013 ING spun out its U.S. insurance business and rebranded it Voya Financial (VOYA). As a result, the ING brand name has all but disappeared for American consumers.

At ING, Hamers pushed mobile banking. In a 2014 Fortune Magazine profile of Hamers after his first year as ING CEO, analysts described him as energetic and charismatic. But ING Group stock has fared just as poorly as UBS stock in the past five years: down 40% in the past two years and 27% in the past five.

In its announcement of the choice, UBS chairman Axel Weber said Hamers is “the right CEO to lead our business into its next chapter. A seasoned and well-respected banker with proven expertise in digital transformation, Ralph has an impressive track record leading ING Group for more than six years. As the industry undergoes fundamental change, Ralph is the person to lead UBS’s continued transformation and build upon its successful strategy as the world’s largest and only truly global wealth manager and the leading universal bank in Switzerland, enhanced by its investment bank and asset management.”

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers fintech and payments. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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