UniCredit's Orcel takes charge of Italy in domestic drive

Andrea Orcel, then UBS chief executive, leaves after attending a UK parliamentary inquiry into Libor interest rates in London January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
  • Italy head stripped of role a year after appointment
  • Other senior executives left in recent weeks
  • Board wants Italy under CEO's direct remit

MILAN, July 6 (Reuters) - UniCredit CEO Andrea Orcel has taken direct responsibility for running the Italian bank's domestic business, an internal memo showed, after the board removed Niccolo Ubertalli as its head.

Ubertalli's surprise ousting comes around a year after he was appointed as head of Italy and follows the recent exits of other long-standing senior UniCredit executives.

Orcel, former head of investment banking at Swiss bank UBS (UBSG.S), took over as UniCredit's chief executive in April 2021 and set about reshuffling its senior management team, including by bringing in former UBS colleagues.

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Ubertalli, who had been tipped as an internal candidate to the CEO role when Orcel got the job, did not immediately reply to a request of comment.

UniCredit, which is Italy's second largest bank, is still undergoing a phase of internal adjustment under the new leadership team, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

The board's decision to strip Ubertalli of his role with immediate effect follows friction over strategy, the people said, requesting anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

As Italy-based group CEO, Orcel already performs tasks that in other countries where UniCredit operates are done by local CEOs, such as meetings with big corporate clients or government ministers, another two people close to the matter said.

Reversing a decision by his predecessor to run Italy as part of a Western Europe commercial banking division including Germany and Austria, Orcel had entrusted it to Ubertalli, who was then the co-head of Central Eastern Europe.

After Jean Pierre Mustier's efforts to distance UniCredit from its debt-laden home market, which the former CEO saw as a source of vulnerability, Orcel had promised instead a renewed focus on Italy and has been working to regain market share.

"We are ready to further enhance Italy's presence at a group level, enabling it to move faster in its transformation ... whilst navigating the expected volatile environment," the internal memo seen by Reuters said.

"As such, the board has decided to make the role of Head of Italy part of the group CEO's direct remit," it added.

The decision over Ubertalli follows the departure of UniCredit's Chief Operating Officer Ranieri de Marchis in May and that of Andrea Maffezzoni, UniCredit's head of performance management and former M&A chief in June.

"The success of Italy is fundamental to the success of our group ... Bringing our Italian business under the remit of the group CEO will cement this alignment," Chairman Pier Carlo Padoan and Orcel said in the message to staff.

Remo Taricani, the head of UniCredit's commercial network in Italy, will support Orcel by becoming deputy head of Italy.

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Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alexander Smith

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