Surprise choice for Swiss finance regulator

Switzerland’s government named a little-known executive from Swiss Re on Wednesday to run the country’s new super-regulator of banking, insurance and money laundering.

Patrick Raaflaub, head of group capital management at Swiss Re, will be director of the federal Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (Finma), as the new regulator will be called when it starts operations next January 1.

His appointment confounded expectations that the high-profile job would go to the head of the country’s bank supervisor.

Finma, which has been years in the making, will combine the activities of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission (EBK), the country’s insurance industry supervisor and, eventually, the agency that polices money-laundering.

The job had been expected to go to Daniel Zuberbühler, director of the EBK for the past 13 years and a familiar figure on the international regulatory stage.

Mr Raaflaub, 42, has for the past two years been responsible for global capital management at Swiss Re, the world’s largest re-insurer, as well as performing related tasks, such as overseeing links with ratings agencies and regulators.

With a degree in business, economics and politics, Mr Raaflaub worked as a consultant before joining Swiss Re in 1994.

In his 14 years with the group, his duties have included working as a controller of the Americas division and as chief financial officer for Europe and Asia.

The appointment does not mean a complete exit for Mr Zuberbühler, who will be 60 this year.

Along with Monica Mächler, head of the insurance supervisor, he was promoted on Wednesday to the board of Finma, where both will serve as deputy chairmen.

Finma will be chaired by Eugen Haltiner, the former senior UBS executive who became EBK chairman in 2006.

In his new role, which will run for a term until the end of 2011, Mr Zuberbühler will continue to represent Switzerland in international regulatory organisations.

Observers said the appointments made sense, as the new Finma director would face significant organisational work in getting the operation off the ground.

By contrast, the key interest of Mr Zuberbühler, a lawyer by training, has been the prominent regulatory issues of the day.

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