UBS Appoints Blessing as Swiss Head, Replacing Gaehwiler

Updated on
  • Blessing stepped down as CEO of Germany's Commerzbank in April
  • Gaehwiler has requested to step down, will assume new roles

UBS Group AG hired Commerzbank AG’s former Chief Executive Officer Martin Blessing as head of personal and corporate banking, succeeding Lukas Gaehwiler.

Blessing, 52, who stepped down from Germany’s second-biggest lender last month, was also appointed head of UBS Switzerland and will join the group executive board on Sept. 1, the Zurich-based bank said in a statement on Wednesday. Gaehwiler, 51, has requested to step down from his current roles to assume new responsibilities within the bank.

UBS CEO Sergio Ermotti, 56, has been reshuffling his top management team, with Kirt Gardner, Axel Lehmann, Christian Bluhm, Tom Naratil and Kathryn Shih all taking on new roles this year. At Commerzbank, Blessing restored dividends by shrinking the lender’s pile of delinquent shipping and real-estate loans after a 18.2 billion-euro ($21 billion) bailout during the financial crisis.

“Blessing really is an expert in corporate and consumer banking, but you have to wonder what’s behind such a move,” said Michael Seufert, an analyst at Norddeutsche Landesbank in Hanover, Germany, with a hold recommendation on UBS and a buy on Commerzbank. “There could well be the perspective of eventually taking the top job at UBS, which would be a real step up.”

‘Significant Experience’

Gaehwiler will become chairman of the Switzerland region, focusing on clients and other selected mandates, according to the statement. He was appointed head of UBS Switzerland in 2010, helping oversee retail, wealth management, corporate and institutional as well as investment banking and asset management in the lender’s home market.

Blessing took over as CEO of Commerzbank in 2008 after working at Dresdner Bank and McKinsey & Co.

“With Martin Blessing, we gain a professional with a proven track record and significant experience in all areas of the business for UBS,” Ermotti said in the statement. “I am certain he will further advance our business in Switzerland and beyond.”

Blessing was paid 1.7 million euros for 2015, including salary, bonuses and other considerations. That’s more than the 1.6 million euros he was awarded for the previous year, according to Commerzbank’s annual report published in March. Members of UBS’s executive board get 1.5 million francs ($1.5 million) in annual base pay. Ermotti received a total compensation of 14.3 million francs for 2015, including a base salary of 2.5 million francs.

— With assistance by Jan-Henrik Foerster

(Updates with comment from analyst in fourth paragraph.)
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