Credit Suisse Mulls Sale of Latin American Wealth Business, Excluding Brazil

The Zurich-based bank, with wealth operations in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, is in contact with potential buyers, including Spain’s Banco Santander and Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo

Un cartel sobre la entrada de una sucursal bancaria de Credit Suisse Group AG en Ginebra, Suiza, el lunes 25 de julio de 2022.
By Sonia Sirletti, Marion Halftermeyer and Luca Casiraghi
September 22, 2022 | 01:30 PM

Bloomberg — Credit Suisse Group AG is mulling the sale of its Latin American wealth management operations excluding Brazil, part of a broad review of which businesses it aims to keep after a planned restructuring.

The Zurich-based bank, with wealth operations in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, is in contact with potential buyers including Spain’s Banco Santander SA and Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, people with knowledge of the matter were quoted by Bloomberg as saying.

No final decisions have been taken and a sale is not guaranteed.

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Credit Suisse is in the midst of electing which businesses to cut, exit or keep globally as part of its second restructuring in less than a year. New CEO Ulrich Koerner and chairman Axel Lehmann are seeking to shore up confidence in the lender and return it to profitability after a string of losses and missteps.

The Latin America region accounts for about $100 billion of client assets and loans, Credit Suisse said in June. That includes its business in Brazil, where it also has significant investment banking activities.

“We have said we will update on progress on our comprehensive strategy review when we announce our third quarter earnings,” the bank said in a statement. “It would be premature to comment on any potential outcomes before then.” Santander and Intesa representatives declined to comment.

While the new strategy may bring changes to the wealth business, bigger structural changes are expected at the investment bank. The firm has been talking to potential buyers for its securitized products group, a trading business with $75 billion in assets by one measure, and has floated the idea of giving dealmakers an equity stake in their unit, auguring a possible spinout, Bloomberg has reported.

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The Latin America changes are being considered against a broader push to scale back activities and regions deemed non-core, the people said. The business has about 200 private bankers and approximately 100 billion Swiss francs in client business volume. The bank has been in the region since the 1950s.

Focusing on top 20 markets

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse’s wealth head, Francesco De Ferrari, during an investor presentation, said the bank planned to focus on its top 20 markets while exiting sub-scale markets. As of the first quarter, 15% of the markets the bank operates in produced 70% of the business volume for the unit. Credit Suisse has already exited Sub-Sahara Africa, referring private banking clients there to Barclays, and announced plans to transfer its onshore business in Mexico to a local player while keeping international, more complex clients.

Last month, it put Marcello Chilov in charge of Latin America, in addition to his role as chief executive for the Brazil market, as part of an effort to merge the two businesses that began in March.

Credit Suisse started staff reductions in the region as well, dismissing 21 employees from the wealth business in Brazil after identifying redundant roles.

For the investment bank, executives have signaled that the unit will be significantly pared back, pivoting to a more advisory-focused model that consumes less capital. Board members have differed over the extent of cuts that should be enacted while still properly servicing the needs of wealth management clients, people familiar with the matter have said.

More recently, the bank agreed to sell its global trust business to The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited and Gasser Partner Trust.

Read more at Bloomberg.com

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