Uncertainties at UBS

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Time for UBS bankers to explore their options?

Peter Wuffli may have been pushed out as chief exec of UBS, but there could be plenty of others ready to follow him out the door voluntarily.

"UBS investment bankers are all fairly approachable at the moment," says the European head of one international financial services search firm. "They've been in a comfort zone for ages and are starting to look at their options."

Itchy feet are partly down to the gnawing sensation that the private bank, not the investment bank, is the true strategic priorty. It doesn't help that Marcel Rohner, previously chief executive of the private bank, has been appointed Wuffli's successor.

Rohner has already indicated a shakeout may be on the way, acknowledging there are problems with UBS' US bonds business according to the Telegraph. There has also been speculation that the bank make seek a merger with a) Lehman Brothers, or b) HSBC - both of which could be nasty from a jobs perspective.

Then there's the Machiavellian nature of Wuffli's departure, which came after he unexpectedly failed to get the bank's backing for him to succeed Marcel Ospel as chairman. The official version is that the board vetoed him following a series of highly unfortunate events, including the exit of Ken Moelis, the highly successful head of the US investment banking arm, and the loss of €90.6m on a hedge fund trading loss in the first quarter of this year.

Headhunters say it's not the first time UBS has ejected senior staff without warning: "It's a fairly hard culture there," says one.

The people we spoke to at UBS don't seem unduly perturbed, though: "It's just tittle tattle," says one senior UBS banker, who denies Rohner's likely to favour the private bank over the investment bank. "Rohner was in the investment bank until 2001 - he's just as much an investment banker as a wealth manager."

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