December 6, 2023

Investment Banking

Let Your Investment Banking Do The Walking

UBS prioritises Credit Suisse investment bank integration and cost cuts

UBS has prioritised integrating Credit Suisse’s investment bank and accelerating cost-cutting, while a decision on the future of its Swiss domestic business is expected within months, according to people involved in the planning.

UBS’s takeover of its ailing rival is due to be completed in the coming weeks, at which point its newly refreshed senior management team will set about overseeing the biggest bank integration project since the financial crisis.

Executives will move first on bringing the two investment banks together to “create clarity on day one” and avoiding “two people going out and calling institutions to sell the same products”, said a person with knowledge of the plans.

In a memo this week, seen by the Financial Times, UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti urged staff to refrain from viewing Credit Suisse workers as competitors.

“Our rivals are those outside of the combined firm who are actively trying to take advantage of the current situation to poach clients, business and talent,” he wrote.

UBS plans to wind down much of Credit Suisse’s investment bank, with many of the division’s 17,000 staff likely to be let go.

But UBS is attempting to hold on to bankers who specialise in growth areas such as pharmaceuticals, technology, media and telecoms, because the owners of the businesses could be persuaded to become wealth management clients.

The investment bank will continue to be led by Rob Karofsky under the revamped leadership team announced by UBS this week, though the wind-down efforts will be overseen by new head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Beatriz Martin Jimenez.

The integrations of Credit Suisse’s wealth management and investment arms will follow, while UBS is planning to make a decision over the fate of its domestic business by the end of the summer, according to a person involved in the plans.

Although UBS had originally intended to keep hold of Credit Suisse’s profitable Swiss universal bank, executives are now open to other options for the business — including a potential carve-out or listing — as a means of preserving thousands of jobs and protecting shareholder value, the person said.

The ultimate decision will seek to balance the broad set of moral, social and fiduciary obligations the merger has presented UBS, they added. The bank hopes to make a decision by the end of the summer to avoid it turning into a contentious saga, having already become a subject of intense political debate ahead of October’s Swiss federal election.

The domestic Credit Suisse business will continue to be run by André Helfenstein, though he will report into outgoing Credit Suisse chief executive Ulrich Körner, who will join the UBS executive board to oversee the integration process.

All current Credit Suisse executives will report to Körner while also reporting to their equivalent head at UBS after the deal completes, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks once regulatory and antitrust approvals have been granted.

UBS is also planning to increase cost-cutting after the takeover is done. Credit Suisse executives were already attempting to strip out $2.8bn of costs over three years, but UBS bosses believe those efforts need to go deeper and faster to reflect the plunging revenues in the business since those targets were set last year.

Credit Suisse was rescued from collapse after it suffered a second heavy spell of client defections in less than six months.

The cost-cutting efforts will come under the purview of Stefan Seiler, who will be installed as head of human resources and corporate services — responsible for employees, real estate and vendor management.

UBS has sent in up to 100 bankers to assess Credit Suisse clients, staff and business lines.

The so-called clean team, which was first reported by Bloomberg, has been tasked with determining which relationships should be ended, which workers should be retained and which divisions should be wound down.

UBS declined to comment on the plans to integrate Credit Suisse.