Francesco de Ferrari: «I'm also Swiss.»

Francesco de Ferrari, Head of Private Banking Asia Pacific

Francesco de Ferrari, Head of Private Banking Asia Pacific

Credit Suisse may be in troubled waters at home – in Asia by contrast, the Swiss bankers are rather successful. And of them in particular.

Francesco de Ferrari is pretty tired of constantly being asked about the problems of his employer. His numbers add up. The private banking division of Credit Suisse (CS) in the past four years attracted 70 billion Swiss francs in new client assets. Last year, de Ferrari's charges generated 18 billion francs, and 3 of them in the fourth quarter, which was a difficult three-month period.

In an interview with in Singapore, the 46-year old begs to know which other bank performed as well as his team – knowing full well that his team has done brilliantly. Of course, he also acknowledges that the fourth quarter result of CS was a reflection of the change in strategy announced in October and that CEO Tidjane Thiam's new vision for the bank has yielded yet.

The New Strategy Fits

From the perspective of de Ferrari, who joined the bank in 2002, the changes were spot on. The Asian region is now an independent organization (APAC), within which private bankers and investment bankers closely interconnect.

The Asian business of CS for years has been focused on banking with rich entrepreneurs, serving both their business and private demands. That's what the Swiss now want to copy at home as recently reported.

Only for the Rich

«Only few global banks can offer as much,» said de Ferrari, using a graph to illustrate his point. It shows how the partnership between businessman and bank first revolves around the investment banking activities, before it matures and turns towards the private wealth management business (see below).

CS Grafik 502

«Our strength clearly is the entire range of advice to the rich businessman,» de Ferrari says, adding that CS wouldn't be pulled into offering its services in the mass-affluent-business with clients worth some hundred thousands of francs – unlike other banks.

Growing the Number of Advisers

«This would require a totally different infrastructure, which we don't have,» he says. He confirms the intention of the bank to increase the number of client advisers in wealth management by 200 over the coming three years.

This announcement in October was met raised eyebrows because the market for private bankers in Asia is said to be extremely tight. De Ferrari isn't to be put off. He says that CS hired 70 new advisers in Asia last year, increasing the number to 590. Today, the number is at 600 and with an annual plus of 70, the total will indeed be 800 by 2018.

Some of the new guys will be taken from within the organization, others from the competition. De Ferrari is convinced that the industry is in for some turbulent times: «We, that is the private-banking industry in Asia, have embarked on a marathon. Some competitors believe that they should sprint for the first 10k. But at best, we are at half point of the marathon,» he explains. Meaning that some rivals will drop out of the race, just as in the real races.

Swiss? Yes, Swiss

CS has chosen a different path. Different that say UBS, still the No. 1 in wealth management in Asia. UBS is thinking about opening up for the mass-affluent-business to grow, in particular in China.

The two big Swiss rivals will probably go separate ways in future. How Swiss they are is a minor issue, despite many discussions about it recently. Francesco de Ferrari has wonderful Italian name. He says: «I'm also Swiss, from Oberkirch in the canton of Lucerne. Write that.»


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