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A politician, an economist and a mathematician are among the select group of powers that will shape the future of what was once Switzerland’s preeminent financial institution.
After a crisis of investor confidence, Credit Suisse Group AG is this weekend mired in emergency talks that will likely end in the breakup of the 166-year-old bank. Longtime rival UBS Group AG is negotiating with regulators over which parts of the company it can take over.
It is a dramatic fall from grace for a titan of Switzerland’s almighty banking sector. The people at the epicenter are a small group of figures from politics and finance. Here are some of the key players:
Karin Keller-Sutter, 59, 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 the 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 Baloise Holding AG and president of the Swiss Retail Federation.
Born in 1965, Urban Angehrn has been leading Finma, the Swiss financial regulator, since November 2021. He spent 14 years at Zurich Insurance and was previously head of strategy at Winterthur’s asset management division. Prior to that, he spent 11 years in derivatives marketing at Credit Suisse First Boston and JPMorgan Chase & Co. He received a master’s degree in physics from ETH Zurich and a PhD in mathematics from Harvard.
Thomas Jordan, 60, has been president of the Swiss National Bank since April 2012. During his time, he has guided the central bank through a phase of ultra-expansionary monetary policy, with the world’s lowest interest rate and currency interventions to support the franc — a refuge in times of market stress — of reinforcement. The SNB started raising interest rates in June and ended negative rates in September. Jordan studied economics and business administration at the University of Bern. He has been with the SNB since 1997.
The chairman of UBS is in crisis. Colm Kelleher, who took up his current position 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 the US bank afloat. He then helped oversee Morgan Stanley’s investment bank, which was trying to win back clients lost in the panic. He retired from the firm in 2019 and joined UBS with the goal of driving the success of Morgan Stanley’s strategy of scaling up in asset management to win over investors.
UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers, 56, is a somewhat unusual figure among top executives of Swiss banks, with his preference for open-neck shirts and corporate buzzwords. His arrival at UBS from Dutch lender ING Groep NV in 2020 was overshadowed by a legal battle over his role in a money laundering scandal. Since taking over in Zurich, he has been buoyed by robust results – although his strategy to make UBS a more digital bank took a hit when he was forced to abandon his acquisition of Wealthfront, a US robo-advisor.
Axel Lehmann, chairman of the Credit Suisse Group AG, knows both addresses on Paradeplatz well, having served as chief operating officer at UBS and as president of the Swiss bank. The 63-year-old was appointed as a safer, more local pair of hands after Antonio Horta-Osorio was forced to leave following a scandal over Covid-era quarantine breaks. Lehmann has since made vigorous efforts to bolster confidence in Credit Suisse, including a controversial episode late last year when he claimed that the bank’s outflow of customer funds had “basically stopped.” The bank’s subsequent admission that they had not briefly seen Lehmann was the subject of a regulatory inquiry, which was later withdrawn.
Another ex-UBS decision maker, Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Koerner, began his second stint at Credit Suisse in 2021 as head of the asset management unit before taking over the top position from Thomas Gottstein last year. The 60-year-old has a reputation for being a ruthless cost-cutter, and the bank has claimed its job-cutting efforts since the October restart are ahead of schedule. The German-Swiss was head of Credit Suisse’s domestic bank in the early 2000s, having begun his career at McKinsey & Co. Inc.
–With assistance from Bastian Benrath.
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