"UBS MDs felt threatened by the quality of people at Credit Suisse"
Whatever you hear about Credit Suisse, it was not a bad place to work. I know: I spent most of my career working for the bank's equities business in the US.
It wasn't just me. A lot of people say the same. Credit Suisse had a great culture and atmosphere: there was a lack of bitchiness and internal competition that's rare in banking. People would join from Goldman Sachs and tell us how special it was. Others would leave and be surprised to find out that it was different elsewhere. - A former colleague told me how lucky I was - he'd moved on and regretted it. In the Credit Suisse equities business, we covered each other's backs and no one was busy trying to stitch anyone else up.
The culture wasn't created by the executives or even the heads of the business. It came from people like me: loyal, long-serving managing directors who'd worked together for enough time to trust each other and enjoy each other's company. We created a positive work atmosphere and people who worked there recognized that.
So, what went wrong? The bank had been spiraling downwards for years, but it was the series of one-offs that weren't really one-offs that cumulatively took the bank down. Clients started pulling money a little bit last year, but people started getting nervous about the very existence of the bank in the final few months.
Even so, equities at Credit Suisse was a great place to work until the every end. We were ranked in the top three in Europe only 18 months or so ago, and we had very top quality people who remained loyal to the bank even though they hadn't been looked after financially for the past few years. It was a case of 'better the devil you know', and Credit Suisse was a pretty good devil compared to the rest.
UBS MDs acted defensively
So, why hasn't UBS picked up more of the Credit Suisse equities team? Frankly, I don't know, and it's frustrating. When we first heard of the deal, there was a suggestion that if there were six people in a team at UBS and six people in a team at Credit Suisse, they might get rid of the three lowest performers from each side and add three from Credit Suisse. The nine would coexist for a year or so while natural competition took its course. That may have created a difficult atmosphere, but it would have been good for shareholders, who would have ended up with the best employees.
Instead, UBS's attitude seems to have been that they didn't ask for this and so are not going to take anyone on. In equities, senior UBS people seem to have been acting to conserve their own positions in a difficult market and massively defensive.
The problem is that by whichever metric you use, Credit Suisse was largely and often ranked higher than UBS: if UBS hired from Credit Suisse, its own people would have been displaced.
For this reason, UBS ignored most of our best people. Many of us simply had no contact with the other Swiss bank, and it seems that UBS MDs were happy to keep it that way. UBS shareholders should be less happy: my own clients have expressed their astonishment that I wasn't even approached for a UBS role. They don't work with UBS right now; they would have done had I been hired.
Victoria Richards is a pseudonym
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