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The 58 most important people at UBS now

When you’re a global bank in the middle of a global economic downturn and have just absorbed, fetus-twins-style, your cross-town neighbor, you need to trust all your staff. But some are more crucial than others.

Technologists especially. UBS has 20,000 technologists by its own count, out of a group total headcount of 74,000. That’s a pretty significant proportion, but in modern day finance, it’s pretty proportional.

The heads, spiritually and managerially, of UBS's technology team are its distinguished engineers. There are just 58 of these worldwide.

Those 58 people have never been so important. UBS CEO Sergio Emrotti called the IT system transfer from Credit Suisse’s systems to UBS’ one of the “riskiest” aspects to the takeover at an event in London earlier thing month, per Bloomberg. “We have 3,000 IT applications of Credit Suisse and we’re going to keep 300. And that in a sense will allow us to create clarity around the IT platform,” Ermotti said.

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UBS has historically had a few issues with its engineer corps. Ermotti's predecessor, Ralph Hamers, speaking back in 2021, was all about shaping things up. He lamented a lack of “engineering culture” that was “driven by engineers”, as opposed to managers and product managers. It was as part of that move to an engineering culture that the distinguished engineer credential emerged, although it came with certainly-not-condescending (“fun”, according to group CTO Rick Carey, a three-time Olympic gold medalist) achievement badges.

Nonetheless, despite the “fun” and the introduction of the “distinguished engineers” classes, a recent anonymous comment from a Credit Suisse senior technologist said some of the old problems linger. "The technology teams are run by people who have never been developers themselves, who do not roll up their sleeves and do the work themselves when it needs to be finished,” they lamented.

That particular insider was planning on leaving the CS/UBS dual monarchy (not that he has much of a choice; UBS plans to cut 90% of CS’ tech, anyway). And he’s not the only one leaving of what seems to be his own accord. Mike Juma, CS’ head of principal flow trading technology, Kirk Wylie, its head of risk technology, and a host of others have joined an exodus from the bank. Maybe they just really, really hate Agile.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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