Credit Suisse CEO expects mid-term headcount reduction in post-Covid adjustment

Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein said the bank would be able to get by in the medium term with fewer staff as it automates business. PHOTO: REUTERS

ZURICH (REUTERS) - Credit Suisse expects to get by with fewer staff in coming years as automation kicks off, chief executive Thomas Gottstein told Swiss newspaper NZZ, and as the bank positions itself toward more digital interactions and remote working in the post-Covid-19 world.

"Medium term, we will certainly be able to get by with fewer staff - primarily, as we continue to automate business," Mr Gottstein said in the interview, published on Saturday (May 23).

"Many processes can still be streamlined. That is one of my priorities. But we also want to grow, especially in our business with very wealthy clients and in our Asian business."

Mr Gottstein, the former head of Credit Suisse's Swiss business, who became CEO in February, does not expect the bank to post a loss this year, even as he expects higher credit losses for the bank's Swiss and international business in the next six to 12 months on global fallout of the coronavirus pandemic than the bank has seen over the past five years.

"I'm convinced we will absorb (these losses) and are correctly positioned from a strategic standpoint," he said, noting the bank's return on tangible equity in the first quarter had exceeded its full-year target.

Mr Gottstein expects employees to spend 10 per cent to 20 per cent of their time working from home in the future, he told the newspaper, leading to savings on office space.

The bank will also benefit from a reduction in travel as video conferencing takes off, he said, and in the future will operate fewer branches, as online banking receives a lasting boost following coronavirus lockdowns.

"As universal banks, we can learn a great deal from (digital providers such as Revolut and N26), especially when it comes to offering customers services via digital channels in the simplest, quickest and most convenient way possible," Mr Gottstein said.

"In the coming months, we will respond to these new competitors with various offerings."

Under Mr Gottstein's predecessor, Mr Tidjane Thiam, Switzerland's second-biggest bank had repositioned itself to focus on wealth management while whittling down its investment bank.

Mr Gottstein now sees "optimisation potential" within Credit Suisse's investment banking and capital markets division, which has posted consecutive losses over recent quarters, but maintained the necessity of keeping the business.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.