Meet Peter Wuffli in the hushed executive suite of UBS's (UBS
) Zurich headquarters, and it's hard to believe he's one of the world's leading bankers. Soft-spoken and unassuming, the onetime journalist doesn't seem to have the force of personality to run Switzerland's ambitious banking and wealth-management group. Yet Wuffli, 46, CEO of UBS since December, 2001, is the managerial brain behind a lucrative cash machine -- one that has as much money under management as France has gross domestic product and is increasingly challenging the titans of Wall Street on their doorsteps and internationally.
There's clearly more to the affable Wuffli -- a father of three whose favored relaxations are the opera and reading Latin American literature -- than meets the eye. Since he took over UBS, with its $971 billion balance sheet and $1.8 trillion of invested assets, the bank's performance has improved dramatically. It is managing risk more effectively and has brought costs under control. Moreover, the bank is gobbling market share in its two key businesses of wealth management and investment banking. As a result, UBS is raking in the money. On May 4, the bank reported its best-ever quarterly profits -- $1.88 billion for the first three months of 2004. That's more than twice as much as in the same period last year. "We have delivered record growth, and that growth is totally balanced," says Wuffli.