The franchise of Swiss Banks has historically been access to large numbers of seriously high net worth individuals and stuffing them full of "product".
The "product" is both third party and internal, but the internal stuff is where the profits are, but also where the conflicts of interest are.
And it is where the scandals are too.
But it is a model that Credit Suisse has embraced. Famously Credit Suisse embraced the "One Bank" model on the basis that the private banking clients benefit from expertise over the whole bank. And at its best that is true.
And Credit Suisse have truly embraced it.
When CS won Risk Magazine's Private Bank of the Year award in Asia last year they highlighted it. To quote:
In bringing value to local markets, Credit Suisse has another advantage, too: its ‘One Bank’ approach, in which the investment banking desk and the wealth management desk collaborate to a far greater extent than many other organisations.
“Our success is defined by the degree of our collaboration,” says Cavalli. “And if you are a client, you feel this because you have the entire orchestration of the capability of the bank coming around you. This helps us to be early in identifying a client’s needs – when they are just starting their journey as an entrepreneur, and need structures for monetising illiquid assets – to when they are more established, and start having cash and liquid assets to manage.”
Embracing the synergies between the various divisions is what Credit Suisse is all about.
To quote a Bloomberg article that had me falling off my chair:
Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein signaled he’d consider further separating the asset-management unit from the rest of the bank after the Greensill Capital collapse, as he steps up efforts to limit the reputational damage from the supply-chain finance scandal.
Making asset management an independent entity is “potentially part of the plan,” Gottstein said in a Bloomberg Television interview, days after the bank replaced the head of the business and removed it from direct oversight of the wealth management unit. “Having a holding company around that could be something we are pursuing,” he said, adding that the Greensill affair for Credit Suisse is primarily an asset-management problem.
Get this: over Greensill, a seemingly irrelevant trade finance firm, Thomas Gottstein will dismantle the classic model of Swiss Private Banking at Credit Suisse.
If this were a billion dollar issue it is obvious what Credit Suisse would do. It would sign the check and move on. And blame previous management.
For this to the rational course of action (or even an action that warrants considering) the Greensill problem must be big. Really big. Like huge.
So let's have a proper disclosure. And start provisioning - because at this point Credit Suisse are talking down the issue (telling us Greensill is but a scratch) but simultaneously deciding to destroy their own business model to excise the cancer.
PS. Credit Suisse One Bank strategy is real. There are two problems with One Bank done with the consistency of Credit Suisse and they both apply to Greensill.
a). Every division assumes that the appropriate due diligence on Greensill (or any other client) was done elsewhere, with the effect that proper diligence never happens and
b). Every division of the "One Bank" will be implicated.
Thomas Gottstein, "One Bank" means you own this problem. Now it is time to be straight with us and your clients.