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Credit Suisse offers higher rates to entice investors, rebuild depleted assets

Credit Suisse Group AG bankers are trying to entice rich clients with higher-yield notes and bonus deposit rates in a bid to quickly recoup as much as possible of the almost $90 billion recently pulled from the bank.

The head of the Swiss lender’s wealth unit, Francesco de Ferrari, is mobilizing his 1,800 relationship managers in a mass calling campaign with offers including a lowered threshold on balances entitled to an interest rate of 5% to 6%, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the plans are private. In addition, the bank is offering notes that pay a fixed rate of close to 7% to compensate investors for lending their cash for a number of months, the people said.

Credit Suisse is fighting to regain stability in what is supposed to be one of its least volatile businesses and the centerpiece of the revamped institution — managing money for the wealthy. Yet amid swirling online rumors which erroneously questioned the bank’s solvency in October, clients began pulling out funds that within a few weeks amounted to about 10% of de Ferrari’s business. 

“We are in close contact with our wealth management clients as we implement our new strategy,” a spokesman for Credit Suisse said. “Market headwinds result in a volatile environment for our clients, and we are fully focused on providing them with differentiated advice and solutions that are in line with market rates.”

Credit Suisse shares were down 1.3% as of 10:47 a.m. in Zurich on Wednesday, and have lost about 65% this year.

The huge outflows are putting de Ferrari, who only took up his current role in January, under intense pressure from Chairman Axel Lehmann and Chief Executive Officer Ulrich Koerner to bring back assets, the people said. 

Knock-on effects

It isn’t unheard of for wealth managers to use such strategies at year end to boost assets under management. Credit Suisse’s offer isn’t substantially above current market levels for some fixed rate deposits, which may limit the appeal however given the perception of risk around the institution. In November, the bank marketed an 11-year dollar bond at 9% to shore up cash levels — a rate more consistent with the junk-bond market. 

Ferrari’s task is complicated further by the knock-on effects of the massive withdrawals including reduced liquidity, and the declines in global markets that have prompted margin calls at a time when client relationships are already strained.

More than $8 billion of losses over the past two years make it a tough task to rapidly rebuild client confidence. One senior Credit Suisse executive said that the ongoing $4 billion capital raise and efforts to preserve liquidity would help to restore trust in the bank, with the aim that client funds return as a result over multiple quarters. 

Saudi National Bank is taking a stake of up to 10% in the company as part of the capital raise, investing as much as 1.5 billon francs. A rights issue for the remainder is set to conclude this week. 

Credit Suisse is expected to disclose updated assets under management with the release of fourth quarter earnings on Feb. 9. 

Client calls

Last week Lehmann said that the bank had already reached out to some 8,000 wealth-management clients covering about 80% of assets under management. 

“We intensify the dialog just to make sure they understand where we are and just to make sure we maintain the contact,” Lehmann said during an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Francine Lacqua. 

Yet often the contact with clients isn’t a straightforward pitch to return funds.

Some desks have been restricted from making new loans to fund clients’ leveraged investments until the next quarter due to a lower level of liquidity, the people said. Those teams are being told that new loans cannot be made until the client has brought back assets, paid off old loans, or promised to do new business with the bank, they added.

Other private bankers trying to convince clients to bring old and new money to the bank are also having to discuss margin calls on existing loans due to asset values falling broadly across the market, the people said. 

Private banking staff said the push is being driven not by incentives but by fear of getting fired. Credit Suisse has said it’s started cutting 2,700 jobs, or about 5% of its headcount. 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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