Peter Wuffli is the “managerial brain behind a lucrative cash machine—one that has as much money under management as France has gross domestic product.”
So says BusinessWeek.com, one of the myriad financial periodicals that praise the quiet firepower of UBS AG’s CEO Wuffli, a 1999 graduate of Wharton’s Advanced Management Program. Often described as a classic, understated Swiss banker, Wuffli has dramatically improved performance at UBS, bringing earnings and return on equity to all-time highs. During his time at the UBS helm, the financial firm has managed risk more effectively, controlled costs, and gobbled market share in investment banking and wealth management worldwide.
During his college years at University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Wuffli began a career as a business journalist, instinctively avoiding his banker father’s footsteps, and today believes his early training of writing under tight pressure has served him well. He completed a doctorate in 1984 and began advising banks and insurance firms for McKinsey.
He was a McKinsey partner by 1990, and, in 1994, became CFO of Swiss Bank Corp. (SBC) before it merged with Union Bank of Switzerland to form UBS AG in 1998. Wuffli was appointed president of the Group Executive Board of UBS in 2001 and chief executive officer in 2003. UBS has excelled under Wuffli because of his ability to inspire and pull together senior executives, in spite of his low-key personality.
“I am an integrator,” he says. “I make sure that different business groups and their teams are aligned where they should be aligned and that they focus on cooperating to achieve synergies.” In this vein, in 2003, all UBS business groups—UBS PaineWebber, UBS Warburg, UBS Asset Management—were rebranded under the UBS name, unifying its image as one firm and one brand.