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Why did UBS choose Ralph Hamers for CEO?

Taking the top job at UBS is a great move for ING chief Ralph Hamers, but it’s less obvious for UBS.


Swiss bank UBS president Axel Weber and new CEO Ralph Hamers

Ralph Hamers, like many people at the top of ING, is a fantastic salesman. As chief executive, he’s been exceptionally good at talking up the Dutch bank’s digital advance – most of all on the retail side. Hamers started out in ING’s structured finance division but he’s spent most of his career managing the bank’s various country-level operations, which have mainly focused on retail banking.

Now he’s becoming chief executive of UBS, one of the banks in Europe where mass-market digital prowess is arguably less important, given the size of its wealth management business and investment bank, which rely more on tailored products and in-person relationships.

The digitalization of retail banking is important for UBS, but only in its home market of Switzerland, which is nowhere near as dominant for UBS as the retail business is for ING. Hamers has experience of ING’s unusually international retail franchise, so he’s not just a Dutch banker. If UBS thinks its Swiss business is a pressing problem it must tackle, someone more familiar with the idiosyncratic Swiss environment might have been a more obvious choice.

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