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UBS needs time to put house back in order

The designated chairman of the board of UBS says it will take up to three years to put the Swiss bank hit hard by the United States subprime crisis back on track.

In an interview on Saturday with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, Peter Kurer said the bank first had to ride out the storm and clean up the damage.

Kurer said he favoured abolishing the bank’s so-called Chairman’s Office, a centre of power which was created by the outgoing chairman, Marcel Ospel, to act as a buffer between the board of directors and bank management.

This office made up of three bank executives would be replaced by committees consisting of internal as well as external experts.

In this way, Kurer said, operations and strategy would be clearly separated. He also said the board would need to focus on ensuring “vigorous supervision in all relevant areas”.

Kurer also rejected a proposal to separate its private client operations from the stumbling investment unit. “We are sticking to our integrated model, which
interlocks the three businesses wealth management, asset management and investment banking,” he said.

Ospel stepped down on April 1 after the bank announced another write down, now totalling more than $40 billion.

The nomination of Kurer, the bank’s general counsel and a board member since 2002, will be put to shareholders at the bank’s annual general meeting on April 23.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR