Credit Suisse on Thursday asked investors for $1.9 billion to rebuild its finances after suffering what CEO Thomas Gottstein called “unacceptable” losses.
The Swiss banking giant was on course to achieve its best trading quarter for a decade—until it was forced to write off $4.7 billion through its exposure to the collapse of U.S. hedge fund Archegos Capital. Instead, the bank posted a 757 million Swiss franc (U.S. $825 million) loss for the first three months of the year, having previously warned losses could reach $980 million.
The bank is also likely to write off more than $2.3 billion following the bankruptcy of Greensill Capital, which supplied assets for Credit Suisse’s $10 billion of supply-chain funds.
On top of the financial fallout is regulatory scrutiny. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) on Thursday announced it was widening probes into the bank’s activities and its exposure to both collapses.
In the wake of Credit Suisse’s woes, experts have queried why the bank’s risk management processes and monitoring failed so spectacularly and why red flags were seemingly not triggered. … Several believe other banks are at risk of being similarly burned for the same kind of high-risk investments and flawed decision-making—they have just been lucky so far.
Since Credit Suisse came clean that it had its fingers badly burned through a toxic mix of risky lending and poor oversight, the bank has carried out a series of remedial actions that would normally have earned it plaudits rather than further criticism.
The bank has launched two separate investigations to be carried out by external parties, which will be supervised by a special committee of the board. No timeline has been given for when they will be finalized.
And in an effort to hold managers to account, Credit Suisse has culled several executives from the board and bank—namely, Investment Bank CEO Brian Chin and Chief Risk and Compliance Officer Lara Warner.
Both joined those roles as part of a restructure last July, suggesting the appointments were either flawed and/or the problems with their business areas were already ingrained before they even got there.
Indeed, it is not easy to dispel the suspicion these high-profile firings were a result of scapegoating (at least to some degree) and that both took the fall for wider governance and supervision failings that other executives ignored.
So far, the heads of the risk and audit committees—the parts of the executive team responsible for overseeing corporate governance, risk management, and how the bank sets its (unfeasibly high) risk appetite—are still in post. This is despite claims in Swiss news reports the risk committee wasn’t informed of the gargantuan bets the bank was financing for Archegos, which resulted in a financial hit that amounts to twice the bank’s earning for last year. (Credit Suisse has declined to comment on these stories).
A boardroom reshuffle may also not deliver the leadership or challenge that is evidently needed, given these same individuals had leading management and executive roles in the run-up to the crisis. Christian Meissner, who only joined the bank last October, now heads up its investment banking arm. Joachim Oechslin—previously the bank’s chief risk officer and executive board member between 2014-19—takes up the same role again, moving from his position as senior advisor and chief of staff to the CEO.
Meanwhile, incoming Chairman António Horta-Osório—formerly CEO of Lloyds Banking Group—will need to familiarize himself quickly with the complex world of investment banking after a career spent almost exclusively in retail banking if he is to help steer the bank out of its current crisis. He will work alongside a CEO who was only appointed in February last year.
In the wake of Credit Suisse’s woes, experts have queried why the bank’s risk management processes and monitoring failed so spectacularly and why red flags were seemingly not triggered (or were not escalated and/or ignored).
Several believe other banks are at risk of being similarly burned for the same kind of high-risk investments and flawed decision-making—they have just been lucky so far.
Some also suggest the complexity of risk in organizations the scale of Credit Suisse are being managed by systems that are not designed to provide the transparency and understanding required by either boards or regulators. “Instead of presenting a forward-looking view of how risks to the business are evolving over time, these systems and processes only present a view of what the organization’s risks look like today,” said Philip Dutton, co-founder of tech vendor Solidatus.