Credit Suisse CEO says bank can get by with fewer staff post-crisis

ZURICH • Credit Suisse expects to get by with fewer staff in the coming years as automation kicks off, chief executive Thomas Gottstein told Swiss newspaper NZZ, and as the bank positions itself towards more digital interactions and remote working in the post-Covid-19 world.

“Medium term, we will certainly be able to get by with fewer staff – primarily, as we continue to automate business,” Mr Gottstein said in the interview, published last Saturday.

“Many processes can still be streamlined. That is one of my priorities. But we also want to grow, especially in our business with very wealthy clients and in our Asian business.”

Mr Gottstein, the former head of Credit Suisse’s Swiss business, who became CEO in February, does not expect Credit Suisse to post a loss this year, even as he expects higher credit losses for the bank’s Swiss and international business in the next six to 12 months than the bank has seen over the past five years due to the global fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m convinced we will absorb (these losses) and are correctly positioned from a strategic standpoint,” he said, noting the bank’s return on tangible equity in the first quarter had exceeded its full-year target.

Mr Gottstein expects employees to spend 10 to 20 per cent of their time working from home in the future, he told the newspaper, leading to savings on office space.

The bank will also benefit from a reduction in travel as videoconferencing takes off, he added, and in the future will operate fewer branches, as online banking receives a lasting boost following coronavirus lockdowns.

“As universal banks, we can learn a great deal from (digital providers such as Revolut and N26), especially when it comes to offering customers services via digital channels in the simplest, quickest and most convenient way possible,” Mr Gottstein said.

“In the coming months, we will respond to these new competitors with various offerings.”

Under Mr Gottstein’s predecessor Tidjane Thiam, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank had repositioned itself to focus on wealth management while whittling down its investment bank.

Mr Gottstein now sees “optimisation potential” within Credit Suisse’s investment banking and capital markets division, which has posted consecutive losses over recent quarters, but maintained the necessity of keeping the business.

REUTERS

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