By Neil MacLucas
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
ZURICH (Dow Jones)–The Swiss National Bank’s list of potential contenders to replace former president Philipp Hildebrand narrowed this week after UBS AG nominated Beatrice Weder di Mauro to its board and Swiss chief government economist Aymo Brunetti took up an academic post, making an insider appointment even more likely.
Switzerland’s largest bank Friday said it has proposed Di Mauro, a Swiss economist who sits on the German council of economic experts, or ‘wise men,’ for election to its board in May. Brunetti resigned from the Swiss economics ministry to become a professor at the University of Bern, effective this month.
Di Mauro and Brunetti were among the favorite outsiders to replace Hildebrand, who quit after a controversy involving a currency transaction he says was made by his wife.
This makes it even more likely that a Swiss central bank insider will be promoted, with the spotlight firmly on Thomas Moser, currently an alternate director of the department that oversees international and economic affairs.
Moser, who joined the SNB in 1999, may have an advantage. He spent three years up to 2004 working with the Swiss mission at the International Monetary Fund in Washington and returned as an IMF director in 2006. Moser was made an alternative SNB director in 2010.
“Thomas Moser has a very good chance of being appointed, not so much because he’s an insider, but rather due to his international experience and connections,” said Thomas Stucki, chief investment officer at Hyposwiss Private Bank.
Another insider thought to be in the running is Dewet Moser, also an alternative director. His ‘hands-on’ management of the SNB’s currency and money market operations since 2007 could boost his chances, analysts said.
The third possible internal candidate is Thomas Wiedmer, interim president Thomas Jordan’s present deputy who helps run the SNB’s financial system’s unit, responsible for banking supervision.
Looking beyond the SNB, local media have pitched Fritz Zurbruegg, head of the government’s finance directorate, and Joe Ackermann, the Deutsche Bank AG chief executive with Swiss roots.
While Jordan said the central bank is fully functional and will continue to defend its cap on the franc, which it introduced in September under Hildebrand’s leadership, it may take several weeks before a decision is made.
The SNB’s Bank Council submits a recommendation for the third governing board member, it is the Swiss federal council, or government, which has the final say.
Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said last month it could be March or April before an appointment is announced, and Stucki, who previously worked at the SNB, said “things have gone very quiet on the issue of a successor [to Hildebrand].”
“The internal candidates are probably in pole position, but the government is probably casting its net fairly wide, which might take a bit longer, although the SNB is functioning well, and there is no time pressure on them,” said David Marmet, senior economist at Zuercher Kantonalbank.
-By Neil MacLucas, Dow Jones Newswires; +41 43 443 8046; firstname.lastname@example.org