The fate of Credit Suisse rests in the hands of these power players

(Bloomberg) —

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A politician, an economist and a mathematician are among the chosen rulers who will decide 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 negotiating with regulators over which parts of the company it could take over.

It is a dramatic fall from grace for a titan of the all-powerful Swiss banking industry. The people at the epicenter are a small group of political and financial figures. Here are some of the key players:

Karin Keller-Sutter, 59, has been Switzerland’s Minister of Finance for almost 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 her election to government, she was on the board of directors of the insurer Baloise Holding AG and President of the Swiss Trade Association.

Urban Angehrn, born in 1965, has headed the Swiss financial regulator Finma since November 2021. He worked for Zurich Insurance for 14 years and before that as Head of Strategy in Asset Management at Winterthur. 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 earning a PhD in mathematics from Harvard.

Thomas Jordan, 60, has been President of the Swiss National Bank since April 2012. In his tenure, he has led the central bank through a period of ultra-accommodative monetary policy, with the world’s lowest interest rates and currency intervention to stop the franc – a haven in times of market stress – from strengthening. The SNB started raising interest rates in June and ended negative interest rates in September. Jordan studied economics at the University of Bern. He has been with the SNB since 1997.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS knows a crisis. Colm Kelleher, who assumed 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 secure an emergency investment by the Japanese Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. Government aid kept the US bank afloat. He then helped oversee Morgan Stanley’s investment bank as it attempted to win back clients lost in the panic. He retired from the firm in 2019 and joined UBS with the aim of replicating the success of Morgan Stanley’s strategy of expanding wealth management to attract investors.

UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers, 56, cuts a rather unusual figure among the top executives of Swiss banks with his penchant for open shirts and business buzzwords. His move to UBS from Dutch lender ING Groep NV in 2020 was marred by a legal battle over his role in a money laundering scandal. Since taking office 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 Board of Directors of Credit Suisse Group AG, knows both addresses on Paradeplatz well, as he was Chief Operating Officer at UBS and President of its Swiss bank. The 63-year-old has been made a safer, more local couple after Antonio Horta-Osorio was forced to leave following a Covid-era quarantine break scandal. Lehmann has since made vigorous efforts to boost confidence in Credit Suisse – including a controversial episode late last year when he claimed that client outflows from the bank had “essentially stopped”. The bank’s subsequent admission that it did not briefly see Lehmann was the subject of a regulatory investigation that was later dropped.

Another ex-UBS key executive, Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Koerner, joined 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 as an unscrupulous saver and the bank has been scrambling to cut jobs as the October restart is ahead of plan. The German-speaking Swiss headed Credit Suisse’s house bank in the early 2000s after starting his career at McKinsey & Co. Inc.

–With the support of Bastian Benrath.

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