Historic Bank Merger Shocks Switzerland And Employees As Well

After UBS saved Credit Suisse through a government-mediated rescue, which tarnished the nation’s long-held pride in its banking prowess, Switzerland awoke to a new era on Monday.

An association of bank employees expressed its shock at the potential outcomes of the agreement to save the 167-year-old Credit Suisse after consumer and market confidence in the lender was lost.

UBS will purchase Credit Suisse for 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.23 billion) and take on up to $5.4 billion in losses as part of a deal arranged by Swiss regulators on Sunday.

The two lenders, whose headquarters are a short distance from one another and near Lake Zurich in the city’s center with snow-capped mountains in the distance, have long been important players in international finance.

In a nation whose economy is heavily dependent on finance, the banks—two of the most systemically important in global finance—hold combined assets that, according to the central bank, amount to up to 140% of Swiss GNP.

In a statement to Reuters, the Swiss Bank Employees Association urged UBS to eliminate as few positions as possible.

“The jobs of very many employees are at stake,” it said, adding that it was in touch with management.

The declaration highlights the unease felt in Switzerland as its standing as a major financial hub is at stake.

Credit Suisse is “such a visible institute,” according to Green Party lawmaker Gerhard Andrey.

“This puts us in a very difficult situation as a country,” he said.

Concerns were raised about UBS’s hegemonic position.

It is “astonishing,” according to Tobias Straumann, professor of economic history at the University of Zurich, that the government did not take special measures to address competition.

The news shocked the Swiss media as well.

“A zombie is gone but a monster is born,” read the title of a commentary in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, often seen as the voice of the establishment.

“A few months ago, nobody would have thought that Credit Suisse would fail. However it is not an accident,” the newspaper wrote in the piece accusing the bank of arrogance and pride.

“The Swiss bank had a stock market value of CHF 100 billion in 2007, of which CHF 7 billion were left last Friday,” it said.

“There has thus been a massive destruction of value, at the hands of managers who have carelessly underestimated risks and helpless board members who have too often failed to control things.”

The incident was referred to as a “historic scandal” by the Tages-Anzeiger.

“The federal government, the financial supervisory authority and the national bank let themselves be ripped off by UBS,” the paper wrote.

“The new mega bank has the advantages – taxpayers, customers, and employees have the disadvantages,” the paper added in an editorial, warning of brutal job cuts ahead.

Ralph Hamers, CEO of UBS, who will serve as CEO of the newly combined company, nevertheless expressed confidence that his bank was up to the task of making the takeover a success.

“The takeover means that we are bringing back stability and security for CS clients,” Hamers said. “But also that we are upholding the reputation of the Swiss financial centre.”

As Credit Suisse, previously the No. 2 bank in Switzerland, falls by the wayside, other Swiss banks positioned themselves in a new pecking order.

“Zeurcher Kantonalbank offers all business areas of a universal bank and is thus a complement to the newly emerging big bank,” Chief Executive Urs Baumann wrote on Linkedin.

(Adapted from TheStar.com)

Categories: Economy & Finance, HR & Organization, Regulations & Legal, Strategy, Uncategorized

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