Credit Suisse: Why a TV interview led to day of chaos

Ammar Al Khudairy, the chairman of Saudi Nationwide Financial institution, gave that blunt response to a  Bloomberg reporter asking if the group—at the moment the biggest investor in Credit score Suisse—would think about investing extra money within the troubled Swiss financial institution.

The agency reply despatched Credit score Suisse’s shares into freefall on Wednesday—at one level falling by greater than 30% earlier than closing down 24%. The financial institution’s bonds additionally sank to distressed ranges. Worry about Credit score Suisse unfold all through the markets, wiping out over $60 billion in worth from European banks.

By the day’s finish, the Swiss financial institution introduced that it was able to borrow as much as $54 billion from the nation’s central financial institution. “These measures exhibit decisive motion to strengthen Credit score Suisse as we proceed our strategic transformation,” chief government Ulrich Körner stated in an announcement following the announcement of Credit score Suisse’s borrowing.

The sturdy motion might need helped stem the bleeding, with shares in Credit score Suisse rising by as a lot as 40% as markets in Zurich opened on Thursday. European banking shares additionally recovered. 

Credit score Suisse didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.


Al Khudairy’s reply was a bombshell for traders already spooked by the broader disaster roiling the banking sector, spurred by SVB’s failure final week. But Credit score Suisse has been struggling for years, affected by scandals, a string of CEOs, and buyer outflows. The financial institution is on its third CEO and its second restructuring plan in simply three years.

First, Credit score Suisse’s CEO Tidjane Thiam resigned in 2020 and was changed with Thomas Gottstein, following a scandal the place the financial institution spied on present and former staff. 

Credit score Suisse then misplaced billions with the implosion of Archegos Capital Administration, a household workplace run by Invoice Hwang. The financier was capable of borrow billions from massive banks, together with Credit score Suisse, regardless of as soon as pleading responsible to insider buying and selling. When the mud settled, Credit score Suisse was left with $5.5 billion in losses. 

An inside evaluate discovered that Credit score Suisse staff didn’t correctly increase issues about Archegos to their superiors. Even worse, the report stated {that a} drain of “threat officer expertise” from the financial institution, following value cuts in 2019, meant Credit score Suisse missed vital warning indicators.

The financial institution was then hit by the chapter of Greensill Capital, additionally in 2021. Credit score Suisse ran about $10 billion price of funds with the agency, and has but to recuperate all of its funds, with about $2.6 billion excellent as of February 2023. Earlier this yr, Swiss regulators blasted Credit score Suisse for having “severely breached its supervisory obligations” with regard to Greensill.

Credit score Suisse booted Gottstein as CEO final July in favor of Ulrich Körner. “Our financial institution is undoubtedly dealing with a difficult state of affairs. The necessity for change was clear,” Credit score Suisse chairman Axel Lehmann stated on the time. Lehmann was additionally comparatively new to the function of chairman, taking up in January 2022 after his predecessor broke quarantine guidelines in each Switzerland and Spain.

Jumpy traders

Credit score Suisse’s traders have been jumpy for a couple of months now, even earlier than the banking disaster of the final week. Shares within the financial institution fell by 69.3% over 2022.

In early October, Körner stated that the financial institution was at a “important second” in a letter to staff. That phrase was sufficient to ship shares plunging by double-digits that day. 

Later that month, Credit score Suisse stated it might spin off its funding financial institution and securitized product group, in addition to minimize $2.5 billion in prices and lay off 9000 staff. It additionally raised $4.3 billion in new capital final yr, in a spherical together with Saudi Nationwide Financial institution.

Credit score Suisse reported a $7.9 billion loss for 2022, its largest because the 2008 monetary disaster. It additionally reported a pointy enhance in outflows in the newest quarter, totaling over $120 billion, and forecast one other “substantial” loss this yr. 

A few of the financial institution’s longtime traders are fed up. Final week, David Herro, chief funding officer for Harris Associates, stated his agency had dumped its holdings of Credit score Suisse. The agency owned a few tenth of the financial institution as late as final yr, and it largely caught by the financial institution for nearly 20 years.

“There’s a query about the way forward for the franchise,” Herro instructed the Monetary Occasions on the time. “Why go for one thing that’s burning capital when the remainder of the sector is now producing it?”

What occurs subsequent?

It appears for now that Credit score Suisse’s new lifeline from the central financial institution is calming markets, with banking shares recovering on Thursday morning. 

“You will need to give attention to info and reinforce the strengths of the financial institution,” Körner wrote staff in a memo despatched Thursday morning, experiences Bloomberg. 

Al Khudairy can be interesting for calm after his feedback sparked Wednesday’s market chaos. “It’s panic, just a little little bit of panic. I imagine utterly unwarranted, whether or not it’s for Credit score Suisse or for all the market,” he instructed CNBC on Thursday morning.