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Obituary: Jürg Zeltner – the first modern private banker

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By:
Helen Avery
Published on:

The former UBS private banking chief leaves an impressive legacy across the wealth management industry.

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The last decade has seen a great rise in the professionalism of the wealth management industry. And no private banker epitomized that progress more than Jürg Zeltner, the former chief executive of UBS Wealth Management, who has died at the age of 52.

Since taking the reins as the head of UBS WM and in his later role at Luxembourg bank Quintet (formerly KBL), Euromoney has had the privilege of interviewing Zeltner and reporting on his work for more than a decade.

There were multiple professional accolades during his time at the helm of UBS – a role he took in the middle of the global financial crisis. In a period where the reputation of banks was in tatters, Zeltner insisted on greater transparency for clients to re-establish trust, including a move towards fee transparency that influenced the industry.


He was passionate, engaging, talkative, and sometimes a little mischievous – all things that you didn't traditionally associate with private bankers, and all the more impressive because of it 
 - Clive Horwood, Euromoney

Keenly aware of the need to innovate, he initiated billion-dollar investments in technology to create a standard platform that has made UBS the leader in wealth technology that it is today.

He pushed hard into Asia long before his peers, and developed the onshore model as offshore fell from favour. And he put advisory at the forefront of the wealth management offering.

Pioneer

In Euromoney’s 50th anniversary year, Zeltner was celebrated as an architect of modern private banking for his pioneering of the chief investment office. The introduction of that function at UBS created a model of professionalism not at just the Swiss bank, but across the whole private banking industry.

But while it was his professional achievements that won UBS Wealth Management many Euromoney awards over his tenure, it was Zeltner’s generous and affable demeanour that those who interviewed him or worked with him remember best. 

“Some people pretend to be humble, but for Jürg it is just his nature,” a consultant told Euromoney back in 2016. 

Zeltner was known for caring for employees, introducing UBS’s internal university and attending every graduation. That kindness extended to clients.

“When you watch him interact with clients, you can see this level of care,” a former colleague says of him. “He knows the children of the clients, he knows about their lives, he sends Christmas cards and notes.”

Responding to the news of his passing Clive Horwood, Euromoney’s editor, says: “He was passionate, engaging, talkative, and sometimes a little mischievous – all things that you didn't traditionally associate with private bankers, and all the more impressive because of it.”