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UBS Names Karofsky Head of Investment Bank as Novelli Leaves

This content was published on February 15, 2021 - 11:14

(Bloomberg) -- UBS Group AG named Robert Karofsky the sole head of its investment-banking unit, elevating its top trader after co-president Piero Novelli accepted a job as chairman of the Euronext NV stock exchange.

Novelli plans to step down from the bank at the end of next month to join the European bourse, according to statements Monday. The two were put in charge as co-presidents following the departure of Andrea Orcel, with Karofsky overseeing trading and Novelli heading the business of advising on deals.

Since taking over in 2018, the duo shook up the unit, split it into two segments -- global banking and global markets -- and focused it on specific sectors such as consumer, industrial, and financial institutions. After a long period of downsizing as UBS pivoted toward wealth management, the investment bank last year recorded its best performance since 2012, helped by a trading surge in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of UBS rose 1.3% at 11:23 a.m. in Zurich trading, bringing gains this year to about 10%.

The move is the latest in a series of reshuffles and reviews under Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers, who took over in November with a mandate to lead UBS through a period of increasing competition and cost pressures. He named a key executive, Sabine Keller-Busse, to run the bank’s Swiss unit, appointed a chief transformation officer and is looking for a chief operating officer.

In appointing a single head of the investment bank, he’s streamlining a management structure put in place under his predecessor Sergio Ermotti that emphasized competition between executives. At the investment bank, the 2018 restructuring of the advisory business led to a series of co-heads being appointed, bloating management ranks.

UBS also still has a co-head structure in its wealth business, with Iqbal Khan overseeing the business in Europe and Asia while Tom Naratil runs the unit in the Americas. Khan, a star banker at rival Credit Suisse Group AG who switched to UBS in 2019, was given the additional responsibility of president of the EMEA region in Hamers’s recent shakeup, while Naratil already holds the equivalent title for the Americas.

Karofsky, who joined UBS in 2014, has driven a digital transformation of the markets unit, an area Hamers has said he would like to continue focusing on. Revenue from trading surged 33% last year, mostly driven by fixed income. Global banking -- which includes the advisory business -- saw revenue rise 23%.

A former Merrill Lynch employee, Novelli joined UBS in 2004, overseeing global mergers and acquisitions, and returned in 2013 after a stint at Nomura Holdings Inc.

“I want to personally thank Piero for his contributions to reshaping our investment bank and successfully co-leading the business, employees and our clients through the pandemic,” Hamers said in the statement. “I am confident Rob is the right leader to help us achieve our strategic ambitions.”

(Updates with investment bank performance in eighth paragraph.)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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