Tuesday, November 30News That Matters

Hurt by Losses, Credit Suisse Faces Reckoning Under New Chairman

But risk problems lingered under the surface: The departure of longtime bankers during his tenure had cost Credit Suisse valuable institutional knowledge, and the bank had built an increased zeal for working with up-and-comers, like Luckin Coffee and Greensill.

In finance, risk management — the ability to take into account a sometimes-volatile mix of bank positions, market activities, assets and liabilities, and reputational and technological concerns to foresee potential losses — is a crucial skill.

But the bank’s approach has been extremely technical, said Arturo Bris, a professor of finance at the IMD business school in Lausanne, Switzerland. An overreliance on calculation can be a problem if those in charge aren’t taking a holistic view.

“Most of these failures have much more to do with human mistakes,” he said. “I don’t think they’re good risk managers.”

Consider the Archegos collapse: The prime brokerage head of risk who oversaw Credit Suisse’s dealings with Archegos had once handled the bank’s sales relationship with the firm. Above him was a chief risk officer whose background was in finance and compliance — not risk.

Credit Suisse has held more than a half-dozen executives responsible for its recent stumbles. The last day for Brian Chin, the chief executive of the investment bank, was Friday. Lara Warner, the chief risk and compliance officer, already departed. And then there was the departure of Mr. Gottschling, the board’s risk committee leader, who did not seek re-election at the annual meeting.

Now Mr. Horta-Osório will have to figure out whether Credit Suisse can steady its investment bank with personnel changes, or if a more serious makeover is in order.

If he chooses to make big changes, he may have to move swiftly.

“Shareholders and employees cannot wait for months for a new strategy,” said Manuel Ammann, a professor at the Swiss Institute for Banking and Finance at the University of St. Gallen. “They need to deliver fast.”

Anupreeta Das contributed reporting.