BSI Won't Disappear – Entirely

BSI isn't at an end. Or not entirely. Here's what's left of the private bank after the authorities are finished with it.

«BSI – the End of a Swiss Private Bank»: the headline at on Tuesday was unequivocal after the surprising move by the Swiss financial-market regulator Finma against the private bank.

And the measures were drastic. According to the Swiss regulator Finma, the unit of BTG Pactual was guilty of a serious violation of money-laundering laws. It confiscated a profit of 95 million Swiss francs generated thanks to those activities, began an enforcement procedure against two managers and together with Singapore watchdog MAS ordered the bank to close down within 12 months.

Surprising? Perhaps Not

Finma boss Mark Branson pulled short of ordering an immediate closure only because Zurich-based EFG International already agreed to take over the bank, which is based in Lugano, in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

After all that, it may sound a little surprising what BSI boss Roberto Isolani had to tell the local newspaper «Corriere del Ticino» (print edition only). Isolani, who was a managing partner at BTG, said that the use of the BSI brand was still possible and for the future strategy of the bank in the Ticino and in Italy of crucial importance.

Branding Not a Key Issue

Does the bank risk another rebuke from Bern? Probably not. Finma's Branson played down the role of branding on Tuesday, saying that if EFG wanted to use the BSI name in future, it was up to the bank to decide.

«Whether EFG choose to use the BSI brand in future, that’s their choice. It’s not something that the regulator should get involved in,» Branson said.

So after more than 140 years on the market, BSI will still not vanish without a trace. The new CEO is giving his best to pour cold water on the heightened tension among staff and clients.

Toeing the BTG Line

Isolani, who will represent BTG on the board of EFG, claims that the misdeeds identified by Finma belong to the bank's past. And the measures enforced by Singapore's regulator MAS had no immediate influence on business and personnel of BSI in the city-state.

He went on to say that today's management wasn't affected by the accusations and that BSI was able to pay the total fines of 100 million francs without going under.

With his comments, Isolani seems to have followed the directions given by BTG, according to research by Or in the words of a German-speaking football lover: keeping the ball on the ground.


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