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Opinion

The battle for Swiss banking

New UBS chairman and chief executive show the pressure the country’s banking system is under.

UBS, the embattled Swiss bank, tried to make a clean break with its past mistakes in March when it appointed Kaspar Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister, as its next chairman. Villiger is joined by Ossie Grübel, the former chief executive of Credit Suisse, who has become the new chief executive.

And concerns about Swiss finance do not end at the banks. Credit Suisse chairman Walter Kielholz has been parachuted back into the top seat at troubled insurer Swiss Re.

The appointments of Villiger and Grübel, both safe pairs of hands and pillars of the Swiss establishment, indicate three things. First, UBS believes it has still not done enough to prevent outflows from its core wealth management business, which has lost close to SFr150 billion ($131.5 billion) of assets in the past 12 months. Second, the bank still needs to do more to win back the trust of Swiss politicians and the public. And third, the Swiss national authorities remain deeply concerned about the challenges facing the country’s private banking industry.

In late February, UBS was forced to pay almost $800 million to settle a case that alleged that it had conspired to help US clients avoid paying federal taxes.

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