UBS Hires Bank of America’s Forbes in Revamp of U.S. Unit

Newly Announced Vice Chairman James Forbes
James Forbes, seen here in a file photograph from 2010 as global principal investments executive with Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Forbes will focus on trying to win investment-banking mandates from health-care companies, buyout firms and “targeted accounts.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

UBS AG, revamping its U.S. investment bank under Robert McCann, hired Bank of America Corp.’s James Forbes as vice chairman, adding to a roster of recruits who previously worked at Merrill Lynch & Co.

Forbes will focus on trying to win investment-banking mandates from health-care companies, buyout firms and “targeted accounts,” McCann and UBS investment bank head Carsten Kengeter said in a memo to staff. At Bank of America he oversaw $30 billion of principal investments, including HCA Holdings Inc. and China Construction Bank Corp., according to the memo.

McCann, 54, has turned to former Merrill Lynch colleagues as he seeks to reverse a three-year slide in the Zurich-based bank’s U.S. market share. Earlier this month he named four former Merrill executives including himself to a six-member executive committee overseeing UBS’s Americas businesses. Two of the bank’s most senior U.S. investment bankers quit last week.

“Jim’s decision to join UBS is an endorsement,” McCann and Kengeter said in the memo today.

Forbes, 52, joined Merrill Lynch in 1995 after working at Credit Suisse First Boston since 1988, according to his Financial Industry Regulatory Authority record. He ran Merrill’s health-care investment banking globally from 2002 to 2008, and was head of Asia-Pacific corporate and investment banking in Hong Kong from 2008 to 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

He was named to his most recent role overseeing principal investments in 2009, after Bank of America completed its takeover of Merrill Lynch. He oversaw the “monetization of over $20 billion of equity investments,” according to the memo, which was confirmed by a UBS spokeswoman, Torie von Alt.

Report to Hull

At UBS, Forbes will be based in New York and report to McCann and Brian Hull, a former Merrill executive whom McCann hired in 2009 and now leads a unit that focuses on strategic clients and partnerships.

McCann worked at Merrill from 1982 through January 2009. He joined UBS in 2009 as head of Americas wealth management, and was appointed in December to oversee all of the Swiss bank’s businesses in the region. He was put in the job by Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti, another Merrill alumnus.

In March, UBS announced the appointment of Andrea Orcel, another former Merrill Lynch executive, to serve as co-head of the investment bank alongside Kengeter. Orcel is scheduled to join in July.

In an interview earlier this month, McCann said a turnaround of the UBS investment bank in the Americas may take two and a half years or more.

Longtime UBS bankers have departed, including two last week. Aryeh Bourkoff, the head of investment banking for the Americas, stepped down on April 17, and Ehren Stenzler, the co-head of U.S. mergers and acquisitions, quit the following day.

Bourkoff and Stenzler are weighing job offers from two banks and also exploring the idea of starting their own firm, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified because the details are private.

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