UK regulator puts Credit Suisse on watchlist after scandals

The UK financial regulator has put Credit Suisse on its watchlist of institutions requiring tougher supervision, the latest blow to a bank that is struggling to draw a line under a series of crises.

The Financial Conduct Authority told Credit Suisse last month that it was taking the step because of its concern that the bank had not done enough to improve its culture, governance and risk controls.

In a letter sent in the middle of May, and seen by the Financial Times, regulators asked the bank’s senior management to provide evidence of the steps it would take to prevent misconduct and improve accountability.

Officials also urged the bank to address “persistent” cultural issues, including a lack of internal challenges to risky transactions and said they had not yet seen “sufficient evidence of effective remediation.”

Being added to the watchlist signals that the FCA has serious concerns, according to a person familiar with how the list operates. Only 20 or so institutions are on the list at any one point out of the roughly 60,000 the FCA regulates, the person added.

Groups on the list are closely monitored by top-level officials at the regulator, required to show progress and address the root causes of issues that are of concern.

Among the companies that have been on the list are Lendy, the now defunct UK peer-to-peer lender, and Provident Financial, the subprime lender that has been investigated by the regulator over its assessment of loans.

Rolling scandals over the past 24 months at Credit Suisse have exposed weak risk controls, forced the bank to issue a succession of profit warnings and battered its share price.

Among the highest-profile was the implosion of Greensill Capital in March 2021, which forced the bank to shut $10bn of funds tied to the supply chain group. Weeks later Credit Suisse suffered a $5.5bn trading loss — the largest in its 166-year history — following the collapse of family office Archegos.

Last October, the bank agreed to pay a £147mn FCA fine as part of a package of settlements with four regulators in three countries for its role in the long-running Mozambique ‘tuna bonds’ scandal.

The FCA has put the bank’s international division and UK operations on the watchlist because it regulates those.

In the May letter, the watchdog asked the bank to take a number of steps, including to conduct a review in the second half of the year on the effectiveness of Credit Suisse International’s board, risk and audit committees.

The FCA said it had made the requests for the reviews after consulting with Finma, the Swiss regulator. Finma declined to comment.

The FCA also has concerns over whether the bank adequately reported breaches of conduct rules for a number of years, according to the letter, which also noted a lack of curiosity from the bank about the root causes of its failings.

In late April, Credit Suisse said that David Mathers, the bank’s chief financial officer and chief executive of Credit Suisse International, a role he has held since 2016, would be stepping down from both positions once a successor had been found.

Several people with direct knowledge of internal discussions said Mathers had been in talks with group chief executive Thomas Gottstein about his departure for at least two years and it is not linked to any regulatory matters.

In a statement to the Financial Times, Credit Suisse said: “We do not comment on our discussions with regulators, nor would it be appropriate for us to do so. As we have summarised before, we are now well advanced in executing the plan to strengthen our businesses and our risk culture.”

The FCA declined to comment.

Leave a Comment