Thursday 20 February 2020 9:32 am

UBS hires ING boss Ralph Hamers as new chief executive

UBS has named ING boss Ralph Hamers as successor to current chief executive Sergio Ermotti.

In a surprise announcement late last night, UBS said Hamers would leave Dutch lender ING in June. Hamers will join Ermotti for a transition period in September before taking the helm at Switzerland’s largest bank in November. 

ING said that “further announcements on the succession process will be made if and when appropriate”.

Hamers’ appointment makes UBS the second major Swiss bank this month to appoint a new boss, after Credit Suisse announced that Thomas Gottstein would take over from Tidjane Thiam, who stepped down following a spying scandal.

Ermotti, who has led the bank for more than decade, won praise for his strategy overhaul in the wake of the financial crisis and making UBS the largest wealth manager in the world. 

But the bank missed its profit and cost targets for 2019 amid pressure from low interest rates in Europe and increased competition from US rivals, forcing Ermotti to roll back some of its goals. 

Hamers, who joined ING more than 28 years ago, has been the bank’s chief executive since 2013. He steered the lender to profitability while it repaid the Dutch government money received during the financial crisis.

ING also invested heavily in digital transformation under Hamers’ leadership, but his tenure was marred in 2018 when ING was fined a record €775m by Dutch prosecutors for failure to detect money laundering financed via its accounts. 

Hamers said he was “honored by the opportunity to lead this great institution”.

“The firm has an outstanding global client franchise across its business divisions, all of which are underpinned by the incredibly strong UBS brand,” he added. 

“Ralph is the right chief executive to lead our business into its next chapter. A seasoned and well-respected banker with proven expertise in digital transformation, Ralph has an impressive track record leading ING,” said UBS chairman Axel Webber. 

“I would personally like to thank Sergio for our partnership during this entire period and for his constructive collaboration during the succession process,” Webber continued. 

Before news of Hamers’ appointment, which was first reported by the Financial Times, emerged, ING abruptly cancelled a planned bond listing. 

At the time, the Dutch bank said: “information has come to the issuer, that needs to be studied”. The paper reported that the listing was pulled after Hamers told the board he was leaving. 

UBS shares in Zurich were trading 1.90 per cent up on Thursday morning, while ING shares in Amsterdam climbed 2.15 per cent.