Raaflaub, who has held the job since FINMA’s creation five years ago, said he wanted to find a “new challenge” after an “exciting and intensive” period at the head manager of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.
FINMA said Raaflaub was leaving of his own accord and regretted the decision.
It said Branson, a former UBS banker who was FINMA’s deputy CEO, will take over the authority’s management as of February “until further notice”.
The Briton, a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge, was appointed head of FINMA’s banks division in January 2010.
He began his career with consultants Coopers & Lybrand before moving to Credit Suisse in London, where he became head of the customer support department.
Branson later joined SBC Warburg before becoming CEO of UBS Securities Japan in 2006, and was later appointed chief financial officer in 2008 of the wealth management and Swiss bank division of UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank.
He rode out calls from some Swiss politicians to quit FINMA at the end of 2012 when UBS’s Japanese unit pleaded guilty to wire fraud as part of a settlement with the US Department of Justice.
Branson was in charge of the unit from 2006 to 2008 but he stepped aside from FINMA’s investigation of the fraud case, involving bids to manipulate various benchmark rates.
The financial regulator has launched a procedure to select a new CEO with Branson tipped by some observers as a top candidate for the position.
“Mark Branson masters the subjects better than Patrick Raaflaub,” Christian Lüscher a Liberal federal MP from Geneva told Le Temps newspaper.
Raaflaub, a former Swiss Re executive, was praised for his accomplishments by Anne Héretier Lachat, who chairs FINMA’s board of directors.
“The fact that FINMA has drawn on lessons learnt from the crisis in a focused and successful way is due in no small measure to Patrick Raaflaub,” Héretier Lachat said.
FINMA resulted from the merger of three authorities — the Swiss Federal Banking Commission, the Federal Office of Private Insurance and the Anti-Money Laundering Control Authority.
But its birth occurred in a tense atmosphere, with UBS needing a bailout from the federal government and the Swiss National Bank after sustaining massive losses linked to the global financial crisis.