Most read from Bloomberg
A politician, an economist, and a mathematician are a select group of power players who will determine the future of Switzerland’s most famous financial institution.
After a crisis of investor confidence, Credit Suisse Group AG is locked in emergency talks this weekend that are likely to end in the breakup of the 166-year-old bank. Longtime rival UBS Group AG is in talks with regulators about what parts of the firm it might acquire.
It’s a dramatic fall from grace for a titan of Switzerland’s all-powerful banking industry. The people at the epicenter are a small group of people drawn from politics and finance. Here are some of the key players:
59-year-old Karin Keller-Sutter has been Switzerland’s finance minister for less than three months. A member of the country’s pro-business Liberals, she has been part of a seven-member government since 2019 and has been active in politics for 30 years. Before being elected to government, she was on the board of insurance company Balois Holding AG and president of the Swiss Retail Federation.
Born in 1965, Urban Engehorn has headed the Swiss financial regulator Finma since November 2021. He worked at Zurich Insurance for 14 years and previously served as Head of Strategy in Winterthur’s wealth management division. Prior to that, he spent 11 years in derivatives marketing at Credit Suisse First Boston and JPMorgan Chase & Co. He earned a master’s degree in physics from ETH Zurich before completing a PhD in mathematics from Harvard.
Thomas Jordan, 60, has been the chairman of the Swiss National Bank since April 2012. During his tenure, he has led the central bank through a phase of ultra-accommodative monetary policy to achieve the world’s lowest interest rates and prevent currency intervention. The franc – a haven in times of market stress – from strength to strength. The SNB began raising rates in June and ended negative rates in September. Jordan studied economics and business at the University of Bern. He has been with the SNB since 1997.
The chairman of UBS knows the crisis. Colm Kelleher, who assumed his current role less than a year ago, was Morgan Stanley’s chief financial officer during the 2008 financial crisis. The 65-year-old helped orchestrate an emergency investment from Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. State aid, kept US Bank afloat. He then helped oversee Morgan Stanley’s investment bank as it tried to win back clients lost in the panic. He retired from the firm in 2019 and joined UBS with the goal of replicating the success of Morgan Stanley’s scaling strategy in asset management to win over investors.
UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Ralf Hammers, 56, cuts one of the most unusual figures among top Swiss bank executives, with his preference for open-necked shirts and business jargon. His arrival at UBS from Dutch lender ING Groep NV in 2020 was clouded by a legal battle over his role in a money laundering scandal. Since taking over in Zurich, he has been buoyed by strong results – although his strategy to make UBS a more digital bank suffered a setback when he was forced to abandon the acquisition of US robo-advisor Wealthfront.
Credit Suisse Group AG chairman Axel Lehmann knows both Paradeplatz addresses well, having served as chief operating officer at UBS and chairman of the Swiss bank. The 63-year-old was appointed as a safer, more local hand after Antonio Horta-Osorio was forced to leave following a scandal over Covid-era quarantine breaks. Lehman has made strong efforts to boost confidence in Credit Suisse — including a controversial episode late last year when he claimed that outflows of client assets from the bank had “basically stopped.” The bank’s subsequent admission that they had not seen Lehman was briefly the subject of a regulatory investigation, which was later dropped.
Another ex-UBS decision-maker, chief executive Ulrich Koerner, began a second term at Credit Suisse as head of the asset management unit before taking over the top job from Thomas Gotstein in 2021. The 60-year-old has a reputation as a ruthless cost fanatic, and the bank claims to have tried to cut jobs ahead of the October reboot plan. The German-Swiss national ran Credit Suisse’s domestic bank in the early 2000s, following his career at McKinsey & Co. Inc. started in
–With assistance from Bastian Benrath.
Read more from Bloomberg Businessweek
©2023 Bloomberg LP