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Colm Kelleher: UBS picks an outsider with staying power

The Morgan Stanley veteran is a sound pick, but is an old-school investment banker the right person to run the world’s largest wealth manager?

Colm Kelleher

Colm Kelleher is choosing a good moment to join UBS, but time will tell if he is the right fit as the next chairman of the Swiss wealth management giant.

The Ireland-born investment banker will succeed Axel Weber when the latter’s mandate ends in April 2022.

Kelleher has all the right credentials, yet is also a surprise pick. He joined Morgan Stanley in 1989, running the bond-trading desk in London before moving to New York and rising to the position of chief financial officer, then president.

What makes Kelleher a good choice? He is clearly a safe pair of hands

He played a key role in the global financial crisis, helping the Wall Street bank pivot to wealth management and downsize its investment bank. After stepping down in March 2019, he retained the role of senior adviser to chief executive James Gorman.

Now he is back on the frontline of banking, chairing one of Europe’s biggest lenders and the world’s leading force in wealth management.

What makes Kelleher a good choice? He is clearly a safe pair of hands. His long tenure at Morgan Stanley – he once compared bankers who move jobs too often to professional gunslingers – helps explain why he agreed to sign on as chair for the maximum 10-year term.


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