UBS Wins Australian Bigshot as CEO Whisperer

Gail Kelly, UBS, Westpac, senior global advisor, diversity

Gail Kelly, former Westpac CEO and senior UBS global advisor

The former chief executive of Westpac is resurfacing from a self-professed «gap year» after leaving the Australian bank last February. Here is her newest appointment.

Gail Kelly will «provide insights on strategy, regulation and risk as an active participant on specific topics at our group executive board strategy meetings,» Sergio Ermotti wrote in a memorandum to staff on Thursday seen by The move was first reported by «Reuters».

«She will also provide input on technology, diversity, and the APAC markets for individual GEB members and overall advisory activities for me,» wrote Ermotti, who is in his fifth year as CEO of UBS.

South African native Kelly emigrated to Sydney when she was 19 and is now a citizen of Australia, where she embarked on a glittering career in banking which culminated in 2008 with her appointment as head of Westpac, the continent's second-largest bank by assets.

She is credited with successfully navigating the lender through the financial crisis, bolstering shareholder returns by 70 percent, doubling market capitalization, and improving earnings per share by 24 percent. Kelly also won double digit gains in measures of employee engagement and customer satisfaction while at Westpac.

Dearth of Female Top Managers

Kelly’s high-level appointment, broad remit and access to UBS’ top management is likely to draw attention to the dearth of female representation in Swiss banking. Women in the top echelons are rare, though there are some notable exceptions: UBS promoted its head of human resources, Sabine Keller-Busse, and its regional head of Asia, Kathryn Shih, to top management this year.

Credit Suisse moved Lara Warner up to its top management last October in a major shakeup under chief executive Tidjane Thiam. Warner, a veteran investment banker, is now head of compliance and regulation for Credit Suisse.

Efforts Not in Vain

Both big Swiss banks have made concerted efforts to attract female representation to their boards in recent years — with mixed success. Only three of thirteen board members at Credit Suisse are female, while at UBS it is three of 11.

Kelly, a long-standing proponent of female empowerment, once set a target of 40 percent women among her top 4,000 managers by 2014. Westpac reached that target under her leadership in 2012, and now aims for a 50 percent female representation under her successor, a man.


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