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Credit Suisse’s Earnings Will Bring Plenty of Investor Queries

This content was published on July 28, 2021 - 14:26

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG investors are awaiting further fallout from a pair of scandals, the impact of dozens of senior exits, the views of a new chairman and the results of a sweeping strategic review.

They may have a few questions when the bank unveils earnings on Thursday.

The Swiss firm just experienced its most tumultuous first half since the financial crisis, rocked by a huge $5.5 billion hit from the implosion of Archegos Capital Management and the scandal surrounding the forced liquidation of $10 billion in supply chain finance funds it ran with Lex Greensill.

Chief Executive Officer Thomas Gottstein had been in the job for just a year when the two scandals erupted within weeks, hammering the bank’s balance sheet, forcing it to suspend its shareholder returns and prompting the departure of top investment bankers. He acknowledged it was a “baptism by fire,” and is fighting to rescue his tenure.

New chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio promised a close look at the firm’s strategy and has started to rebuild the executive ranks, including the recent appointment of two Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executives, one in the key post of chief risk officer.

Here are some of the primary questions:

What are the findings of the bank’s Archegos review and will it prompt more change?

The bank is expected to release a report on its probe on Thursday and has already said that approximately $600 million of the Archegos hit will show up in the second-quarter results. Investors and analysts will be keen to see if that estimate captured the full damage.

Credit Suisse failed to properly monitor billions of dollars of exposure that piled up while handling trades for Archegos Capital Management, people briefed with the report told Bloomberg. Employees, they said, chased business that made little economic sense in the run up to the U.S. hedge fund’s implosion.

It’s unclear whether the report will come with further solutions for shoring up confidence. So far, the bank has announced it is deleveraging its prime brokerage by a third and severing ties with clients deemed too high risk, including some hedge funds.

Another open question is whether the findings will prompt any more executive exits. Investment bank head Brian Chin and risk and compliance chief Lara Warner have already been ousted in the aftermath. The lender is now splitting Warner’s two functions, announcing earlier this week that Goldman Sachs deputy chief risk officer David Wildermuth will join early next year as chief risk officer. The scandal also saw the departure of the bank’s head of equities and co-heads of the prime brokerage business, which looks after hedge fund clients.

Is there any evidence of reputational damage hurting the asset and wealth businesses?

Some analysts have pointed to worries that the scandals could damage the bank’s reputation badly enough to hurt the key wealth management business. They’ll be watching asset flows to see if clients are pulling money and for any key relationship manager departures for impact.

The Greensill scandal has hurt wealthy and institutional clients who invested in the soured supply-chain finance strategy. That includes former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.

The bank has paid out just over half of the total amount in the funds and expressed concerns about the recovery of $2.3 billion of exposure. It hasn’t yet said when the next payment will be nor what level of losses investors in the funds might be on the hook for. Some investors have indicated they may sue the bank.

Analysts are expecting approximately 6 billion francs ($6.6 billion) of outflows from the asset management unit for the second quarter, according to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

What does this mean for strategy?

Decisions coming out of the strategy review are expected later this year as part of an investor update, but analysts will be looking for any hints in executives’ comments. Horta-Osorio has already given dealmakers some pause with internal comments that indicated he views investment banking arm as an “ancillary” service to the wealth business, despite it historically delivering more revenue than any other division of the bank.

The scandals weighed on capital ratios, and therefore growth opportunities for the bank. The company raised $2 billion from investors to shore up capital but is still under scrutiny from local regulator Finma as well as other overseers.

Options include spinning off the asset management arm and combining the international wealth management division with Asia Pacific unit, which is primarily a wealth business after a restructuring last year. The bank could also further cut capital allocated to the investment bank.

What’s the impact from departures at the investment bank?

Top investment banker exits have been frequent in the months since Archegos, with more than 40 managing directors across the dealmaking side of the business leaving amid concerns over pay and the bank’s strategy. They include the bank’s global head of M&A and at least five global heads or co-heads of industry teams.

The departures have especially hit groups courting financial institutions and technology, media and telecom companies, two areas of traditional strength for Credit Suisse. The exodus threatens the strength of businesses that have been among the top in the industry dating back decades. And it comes as a record deluge of transactions lifted first-half profits at its biggest Wall Street rivals.

There are already some signs of slippage, with Credit Suisse dropping down the adviser rankings in three of its most important industry sectors so far this year. Market share in financial services, tech and media and basic materials -- which includes energy -- all show a declining trend. Industrials is a rare bright spot.

While there are examples of Credit Suisse missing out on deals, the impact from the departures may only show up in the firm’s deal pipeline since mergers often take a significant amount of time to complete.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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