Bank’s fate rests on stylish Swiss Sergio

SUAVE, smooth and Swiss, Sergio Ermotti was seen by many – but not all – as the man to restore the fortunes of UBS.

The former deputy head of UniCredit spent most of his early career at Merrill Lynch, where he rose to become co-head of global equity markets.

The well-dressed executive is seen as a bridge-builder, whose style contrasts with the gruff management style of his predecessor, Oswald Gruebel.

Not everything has gone according to plan for Ermotti, however, since he began filling in for Gruebel.

He came under fire in the Swiss press over his involvement with a chain of luxury hotels, the holding company of which was based in a tax haven, Panama. He said the business had its tax affairs in order and he had been working to bring its base to Switzerland.

He did not endear himself to politicians in Berne, however, when he said Switzerland had grown prosperous through undeclared funds.

Ermotti’s career is typical of many European bankers: from time at a major US investment bank to a smaller second-tier European player. In Ermotti’s case, he joined Merrill Lynch in 1987 where he spent 16 years. He then took a sabbatical, during which he returned to his native Ticino and took on the hotel mandate, before joining UniCredit late in 2005.

Since taking over at UBS Ermotti has moved away from a target of SwF15bn (£10.36bn) profit. He has said UBS plans to set a return-on-equity target at its investor day tomorrow.