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UBS: Ospel proves he’s top dog as Arnold departs

An overpromoted investment banker who should never have been doing the job in the first place? Or a gifted and articulate, internationally minded manager leading the drive for transparency and shareholder value?

There are two schools of thought about Luqman Arnold, whose tenure as president of the group executive board of UBS AG ended abruptly after less than eight months in the job.

But everyone agrees about one thing: his sacking by chairman Marcel Ospel and replacement by asset management chief Peter Wuffli was a bolt from the blue.

"Normally this place leaks like a sieve," says one UBS investment banker. "But there was not even a hint of a whisper about this."

The putsch dispelled any doubts as to who actually runs UBS. Since Ospel took over as chairman and appointed Arnold as president of the executive board, it was unclear where executive power in the bank lay.

Although Arnold had responsibility for day-to-day operations, Ospel was reluctant to cede executive authority and the arcane structure of UBS only served to heighten the confusion.

Arnold was never given the formal role of chief executive and answered to the board of directors, chaired by Ospel.

Speculation within UBS says Arnold wanted to go further in restructuring the domestic business than the board deemed acceptable. But rumours that Arnold had planned deep job cuts in Switzerland were denied.

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