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Former Lloyds Banking boss may have Mourinho-like decision to make at Credit Suisse

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There is just over a week before former Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY) chief executive, António Horta-Osório, takes the chair at strife-torn Credit Suisse (CS).

Given the rate at which the company is clumsily walking into buzz-saws, that leaves plenty of time for additions to the already lengthy list of issues that the handsomely remunerated Horta-Osório needs to sort out.

The Portuguese banker endured the odd scandal in his time at Lloyds but generally, he is highly rated but then so was his fellow countryman Jose Mourinho, and look what happened to him.

If Horta-Osório can clear up the mess at Credit Suisse he will deserve to start referring to himself as the special one.

When his appointment as CS’s next chairman was announced at the end of last year, he might have thought his first bit of fire-fighting would be repairing the Swiss bank’s reputation after it admitted hiring private detectives to spy on two of its executives in 2019.

Since then, the bank has been in the brown stuff because of its relationship with the collapsed supply chain finance specialist, Greensill Capital.

Investment banks do get involved in working with shady individuals – Swiss banks, in particular, have a reputation for not being particularly squeamish about having some stomach-churningly despicable people as their customers – and the market is generally prepared to turn a blind eye to this but what the market tends not to tolerate is for an investment bank to be slow getting out when things start to go pear-shaped.

In the Greensill case. Credit Suisse appears to have been blind-sided by the rapid unravelling of the Greensill operation, leaving a lot of customers waiting an uncomfortable time to get money back from CS funds that were focused on investing in Greensill’s securitised invoice packages.

The bank froze four funds managing US$10bn of Greensill assets and has been steadily releasing funds to its fund’s customers, with US$4.8bn in funds now returned.

Credit Suisse announced in its first-quarter results this morning that it had taken a CHF30mln charge for the collapse of Greensill, which has sparked a probe in the UK into the lobbying of the government on the company’s behalf by former PM David Cameron.

That’s small beer, which is more than can be said for the CHF4.4bn of losses stemming from the collapse of the hedge fund, Archegos Capital.

Credit Suisse said it is likely to swallow another CHF600moln of losses related to the Archegos debacle in the second quarter.

“The loss we report this quarter, because of this matter, is unacceptable,” admitted Thomas Gottstein, the chief executive.

The role of a chairman is largely a behind the scenes one with the day-to-day running of the company left to the chief executive but one of the big decisions is whether to make management changes.

For Gottstein’s part, he claims he is still up for the fight and wants to right the listing ship.

Like Jose Mourinho, the former Spurs manager found out this week, that decision is not his to make.

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