Ossie Grubel – A Man For All Seasons & All Swiss Banks?


Oswald Grubel is a fascinating pair of safe hands for UBS at a time of turmoil. Yet the move represents a risk to Grubel whose reputation upon retirement as Credit Suisse CEO was simply outstanding.


Capital market love their conspiracy theories and it is difficult not to see one (or many) at work here. However, the truth may indeed be rather dull. With the UBS C-suite still in disarray after the departure of Chairman Marcel Ospel (et al) and a ream of bad publicity concerning toothpaste tubes, diamonds and private banking services as a whole, UBS has opted to make a significant change and appoint a bedrock in management.

Ossie Gruble is regarded as something of a saint in Swiss banking circles. He manages to enjoy a popularity within the trading constituency that borders upon the fanatical while equally he is at home in the upper echelons of Swiss financial politics and global banking as a whole.

His pedigree is simple: he turned around Credit Suisse, now he has the chance to become the only person to turn around both of Switzerland’s global 500lb gorillas of banking.

Certainly it is difficult not to think that the EBK (Swiss Central Bank) will be more relaxed at the sight of UBS being steered through very stormy waters by a Swiss citizen who can both manage those tricky complex trading operations as well as operate a global bank. Switzerland sits on the precipice of banking secrecy being eroded and Switzerland Inc needs a competent CEO with gravitas to run its top banks.

Talk of conflicts of interest may abound given Grubel’s Credit Suisse stock and pension but really Swiss banking for the top 2 is largely a “win win” scenario. They may compete head to head in many markets but essntially the global marketplace is their playground and that means a huge opportunity to profit without having to cut each other’s throats. Moreover, any methods by which the Swiss can maintain their lead in private banking is a vital issue currently where all Swiss banks are in precisely the same position – threatened by an end to banking secrecy. This isn’t just about UBS and its 60,000 employees, this is about the future of Switzerland Inc.

UBS needs right now to find its own stablity in a highly volatile marketplace and that has neccessitated the sacrfice of its 43 year old CEO Marcel Rohner in place of a man from an older generation with a proven reputation for reform and all the attributes of a senior, statesmanlike Swiss banking chief. Watch out for intriguing reforms with UBS under the watch of “Saint Ossi!”


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