(Bloomberg) -- UBS Group AG Chief Executive Officer Sergio Ermotti, who’s overseeing the takeover of Credit Suisse Group AG in a government-brokered rescue, said he saw problems at UBS’s smaller competitor as early as 2015.
“UBS was very well positioned from 2015, we had done our homework after the financial crisis,” Ermotti said in an interview with the Schweiz am Wochenende newspaper. “We always looked at what opportunities there were for us to grow organically and inorganically. It was clear to me that something wasn’t going well at CS.”
Asked if he already had a takeover plan in mind for Credit Suisse at the time, Ermotti smiled and stayed silent, according to the newspaper. He spoke following a media forum in Lucerne, where he gave his strongest indication yet that the Swiss government and central bank will avoid taking a financial hit from the emergency rescue.
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Ermotti rejected the notion that outgoing CEO Ulrich Koerner contributed to the collapse of Credit Suisse and wasn’t suited for a senior role at the merged institution, pointing out that he was previously on the management team at UBS.
“It is crystal clear: this situation at Credit Suisse didn’t develop in the last six weeks or months, but in the last six, seven years,” Ermotti told the newspaper. “The task now is to implement the integration quickly. Ulrich Koerner knows Credit Suisse very well.”
Ermotti said that all options are on the table for Credit Suisse’s domestic bank, but rejected the idea it has to spin it off to shrink the new-look UBS.
“I don’t think the merger of UBS and CS will create a bank that is too big for Switzerland,” he said. “Switzerland cannot be one of the world’s leading financial centers if it only has medium-sized banks. This merger strengthens Switzerland.”
Other highlights of the interview:
- On cash outflows: “In terms of cash outflows, however, the situation has stabilized.”
- On why Switzerland doesn’t need to tighten banking regulation: “CS had no liquidity problem up to 72 hours before the weekend in question. It was a trust and credibility issue because CS was no longer profitable. Profitability and trust cannot be regulated.”
- On the legal liabilities that UBS inherits: “We will remove the legacy as quickly as possible.”
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