ZURICH, April 8 (Reuters) - The Swiss government named Philipp Hildebrand as new chairman of the Swiss National Bank on Wednesday and said economics professor Jean-Pierre Danthine would become the central bank's third board member.
The government said Hildebrand, currently SNB vice-chairman, would take over from Jean-Pierre Roth on Jan. 1, 2010 after Roth retires. Roth's retirement was announced in February and Hildebrand was widely expected to succeed him.
Roth, Hildebrand and board member Thomas Jordan currently make up the governing board, which decides on interest rates. Jordan will be promoted to vice-chairman, the SNB said.
'In a time of crisis it is correct to act swiftly as far as leadership issues are concerned. The people chosen are great. Philip Hildebrand is one of the best-connected central bankers in the world,' said Julius Baer economist Janwillem Acket.
Hildebrand, 45, joined the central bank and the board in 2003 and became vice-chairman in 2007. The former Swiss national swimming champion heads the SNB's department in charge of financial stability, which Jordan will take over in January.
As SNB chairman, Hildebrand will move to head the department responsible for economic and international affairs, while Danthine will take over the department responsible for financial markets and banking operations.
An Oxford and Harvard university-trained former banker, Hildebrand helped organise a state rescue package in October for stricken Swiss bank UBS.
Since the global credit crisis started in 2007, the SNB has taken part in a number of coordinated central bank actions, including the introduction of dollar repos and a joint interest rate cut in October 2008.
The Swiss central bank stunned markets on March 12 when it cut rates to an historic low of 0.25 percent and said it would buy foreign currencies to prevent a further appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro.
TALKING THE FRANC DOWN
The franc was off against the euro on Wednesday, trading down 0.15 percent at 1.5184 per euro at 1408 GMT.
Hildebrand reiterated last week the SNB will use all means to prevent a further rise of the franc as this could carry deflationary risks.
He said the central bank would only change track when it was clear that Switzerland was back on a long-term growth path.
The SNB sees the Swiss economy shrinking by 2.5 to 3.0 percent this year, and forecasts consumer prices will fall 0.5 percent in 2009 and remain close to zero in 2010 and 2011.
Danthine, 58, is professor of macroeconomics and financial theory at Lausanne university as well as managing director of the Swiss Finance Institute since its establishment in 2005. Born in Belgium, he has Belgian and Swiss citizenship.
In Switzerland, distribution of federal positions between the German and French language groups is a sensitive issue. Roth was only the second native French-speaker to head the SNB. Hildebrand is a native German speaker.
UBS economist Reto Huenerwadel said Danthine brought a wealth of academic knowledge to the SNB, noting he had most recently published on the business cycle and macroeconomics, but said he did not expect him to change Swiss monetary policy.
'We are not looking for a major shift in the pragmatic monetary stance the SNB is applying currently,' he said.
(Additional reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto and Josie Cox; editing by David Stamp/Victoria Main) Keywords: SWISS SNB/HILDEBRAND (firstname.lastname@example.org; +41 (0)58 306 7336) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved. The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.