Credit Suisse’s fate rests in the hands of these power players

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A politician, an economist and a mathematician are among the select group of powerful people who will determine the future of what was once Switzerland’s leading financial institution.

After a crisis of investor confidence, Credit Suisse Group AG is locked in emergency talks this weekend that are likely to end with the dissolution of the 166-year-old bank. Longtime rival UBS Group AG is in talks with regulators over which parts of the company it can acquire.

It’s a dramatic drop for a titan of Switzerland’s all-powerful banking sector. The people at the epicenter are a small group of figures drawn from politics and finance. Here are some of the main 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 the government, she was on the board of insurance company Baloise Holding AG and was president of the Swiss Retail Federation.

Urban Angehrn, born in 1965, has been leading Finma, the Swiss financial regulator, since November 2021. He worked for 14 years at Zurich Insurance and previously as head of strategy in 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 earned a master’s degree in physics from ETH Zurich before completing a doctorate in mathematics from Harvard.

Thomas Jordan, 60, has been president of the Swiss National Bank since April 2012. During his tenure, he led the central bank through an ultra-expansive monetary policy phase, with the world’s lowest interest rate and currency interventions to thwart the franc crisis – a refuge in times of market stress – from strengthening. The SNB started raising rates in June and ended negative rates in September. Jordan studied economics and business at the University of Bern. He has been on the SNB since 1997.

The president of UBS knows a crisis. Colm Kelleher, who took up 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 by Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. state assistance, kept the US bank afloat. He then helped oversee Morgan Stanley’s investment bank in its attempt to win back panic-lost clients. He retired from the firm in 2019 and joined UBS with the aim of replicating the success of Morgan Stanley’s strategy of scaling wealth management to win investors.

UBS Group AG CEO Ralph Hamers, 56, cuts a somewhat unusual figure among top Swiss bankers, with his preference for open-necked shirts and business buzzwords. His arrival at UBS from Dutch lender ING Groep NV in 2020 has been 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 pull out of its acquisition of Wealthfront, a US robotic adviser.

Credit Suisse Group AG chairman Axel Lehmann is familiar with the two addresses on Paradeplatz, having served as chief operating officer at UBS and chairman of its Swiss bank. The 63-year-old has been touted as a safer, local pair of hands after Antonio Horta-Osorio was forced out following a scandal over Covid-era quarantine breaks. Since then, Lehmann has gone to great lengths to boost confidence in Credit Suisse – including a controversial episode late last year when he claimed that asset outflows from the bank’s clients had “basically stopped”. The bank’s subsequent admission that it had not briefly seen Lehmann was the subject of a regulatory investigation, which was later thrown out.

Another former UBS decision maker, CEO Ulrich Koerner began his second stint at Credit Suisse in 2021 as head of the asset management unit before taking over from Thomas Gottstein last year. The 60-year-old executive has a reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter, and the bank has said its drive to shed jobs since its October restart is well underway. The Swiss-German national managed Credit Suisse’s home bank in the early 2000s, having started his career at McKinsey & Co. Inc.

–With the help of Bastian Benrath.

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