Credit Suisse’s fate rests in the hands of these power players

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A politician, an economist, and a mathematician are among a select group of power players who will determine the future of what was once Switzerland's premier institution.

Following a crisis of investor confidence, Suisse Group AG is locked in emergency talks this weekend over the possibility of a breakup of the 166-year-old bank. Longtime rival UBS Group AG is in talks with regulators about what parts of the firm it could acquire.

It's a dramatic fall from grace for a titan of Switzerland's all-powerful industry. The people at the epicenter are a small set of figures drawn from politics and finance. Here are some of the major players:

Karin Keller-Sutter, 59, has been Switzerland's finance minister for less than three months. A member of the country's pro- Liberals, she has been part of the seven-member government since 2019 and has been active in politics for over 30 years. Prior to being elected to government, she was on the board of insurance company Balois Holding AG and chair of the Swiss Federation.

Urban Enghorn, born in 1965, is heading the Swiss financial regulator FINMA from November 2021. He worked for 14 years at Zurich Insurance and previously served as Head of Strategy in the Asset Management division of Winterthur. Prior to this, he spent 11 years in derivatives marketing at Credit Suisse First Boston and JP Morgan Chase & Co. He earned a master's degree in physics from ETH Zurich before completing his PhD in mathematics from Harvard.

Thomas Jordan, 60, President of the Swiss National Bank since April 2012. During his time there, he led the central bank through a phase of ultra-expansive monetary-policy, setting the world's lowest interest rates and preventing currency interventions as the franc – a haven in times of stress – strengthened. From. The SNB began raising rates in June and ended negative rates in September. Jordan studied economics and business at the University of Bern. He has been in SNB since 1997.

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The chairman of UBS knows a crisis. Colm Kelleher, who took up his current role less than a year ago, was Morgan Stanley's chief financial officer during the 2008 financial crisis. The 65-year-old has led Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. helped arrange an emergency from the U.S. that, along with state aid, kept American Bank afloat. He then helped oversee Morgan Stanley's investment bank as it tried to win back clients it had lost in the panic. He retired from the firm in 2019 and joined UBS with the goal of replicating the success of Morgan Stanley's strategy of expanding into wealth management to win over investors.

Ralf Hammers, 56, chief executive of UBS Group AG, cuts an unusual figure among top executives of Swiss banks, with his preference for open-necked shirts and business discussions. His arrival at UBS in 2020 from Dutch lender ING Groep NV was spurred by a legal battle over his role in a money laundering scandal. Since taking over in Zurich, he has been buoyed by strong results – although his strategy to make UBS a more digital bank suffered a setback when he was forced to abandon his acquisition of US robo-advisor Wealthfront.

Axel Lehmann, chairman of Credit Suisse Group AG, knows both addresses on Paradeplatz well, having served as chief operating officer at UBS and chairman of its Swiss bank. The 63-year-old was appointed as a safer, more local hands-off after Antonio Horta-Osorio was forced to depart following a scandal over a Covid-era quarantine break. Lehman has since made tremendous efforts to galvanize confidence in Credit Suisse — including a controversial episode late last year when he claimed that the outflow of client assets from the bank had “basically stopped.” The bank's later admission that it had not seen Lehman was briefly the subject of regulatory scrutiny, which was later dropped.

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Another ex-UBS decision-maker, Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Körner, begins his second term as head of the asset management unit at Credit Suisse in 2021, before taking over the top position from Thomas Gottstein last year. The 60-year-old has a reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter, and the bank has claimed to have attempted to eliminate jobs since going ahead with an October reboot plan. The German-Swiss national ran Credit Suisse's domestic bank in the early 2000s, starting his career at McKinsey & Company Inc.

–With assistance from Bastian Beinrath.

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