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UBS elevates more women bankers in push to diversify leadership

UBS Group promoted female bankers to key positions at the top of world’s largest wealth manager, broadening the pool of potential candidates to eventually succeed Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti and bringing more diversity to the board.

Chief Operating Officer Sabine Keller-Busse continued her steady ascent within the bank by taking on the additional responsibility of president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Suni Harford, who spent almost a quarter of a century at Citigroup before joining UBS in 2017, joins Keller-Busse on the executive board as head of asset management. Both positions were held by Ulrich Koerner, who leaves next year.

The new roles for Keller-Busse and Harford come a week after the bank promoted another woman to a position just below the executive board. Christine Novakovic was named head of UBS’s European Union entity where she will oversee about 2,000 staff. Still, the bank may have some way to go to addressing the gender imbalance on the board, with woman occupying 2 of the 12 seats, though the overall workforce split is 61%-39%.

UBS version 3 by Bloomberg

The changes form part of one of the biggest revamps in UBS’s top management since Ermotti took over almost eight years ago, widening the group of potential candidates who could eventually take over the top positions. Chairman Axel Weber said earlier this year that the bank was in early stage succession planning after several high-profile departures.

The hiring on Thursday of Iqbal Khan, a former Credit Suisse banker, to replace wealth management co-head Martin Blessing has also further rejuvenated UBS’s executive board. Aged 43, Khan will be the youngest board member by far when he joins on Oct. 1.

Keller-Busse joined UBS almost a decade ago and is a former McKinsey partner. She previously led human resources and Credit Suisse’s private clients region for Zurich. She has been “pivotal in implementing stronger business alignment while driving efficiency and effectiveness,” UBS said.

Harford joined UBS just two years ago after nearly a quarter century with Citigroup Inc. UBS described her as “a strong leader with an excellent track record and broad experience across the industry, including research, client coverage and risk management.”