In a move that clearly seeks to distance the second largest Swiss bank from potentially "risky" or just not that profitable (read "rich or super rich") accounts, Credit Suisse announced today that it plans to close some clients' accounts as it focuses on high-value customers in some countries and pulls out of others altogether. The development is somewhat ironic: while banks around the world scramble to obtain ultra cheap funding, of which deposits are currently the cheapest alternative, Credit Suisse is saying to people, thanks but no thanks, we don't want your money. Then again, perhaps this is an admirable stance by the bank. It certainly is preferable to CS eagerly accepting every last Swiss Franc only to pull a Cyprus in a few months (indicatively speaking) and "bailing in" said money. It does however pose the question: has CS found an alternative method of funding its assets now that it is actively deleveraging, and if so what, and who is the source?
"We've decided to focus on certain segments and markets and exit some countries that are too small," said a spokeswoman for the Swiss banking giant.
Switzerland's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reported that the accounts involved would be closed by the end of the year, affecting clients in nearly 50 countries.
The Credit Suisse spokeswoman said the bank would exit some countries entirely, including Congo, Angola and Turkmenistan. In others, such as Denmark and Israel, it will close small accounts to focus on the top segment of the market, she said.
Tages-Anzeiger said the bank considered the risk to its reputation in countries such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus to be too high, and elsewhere wanted to focus on "rich and super-rich clients" with balances of at least one million Swiss francs (800,000 euros, $1.1 million).
In Israel, where many clients have dual US citizenship, the bank also wanted to reduce the regulatory burden of complying with American tax law, the report said.
The bank had said in July it planned to exit smaller markets, as it announced second-quarter profits of 1.04 billion francs, a 32-percent increase from the year before.
Pressure has increased on banks in recent years to help identify accounts linked to organised crime, high-level corruption or other wrongdoing, causing the cost of complying with regulatory procedures to rise sharply.
Taking this to its next logical step, assuming the disposed capital is indeed illegally acquired, it would be unable to bypass US, and western, Anti-Money Laundering checks for securities accounts, which would leave it only one option: US real estate, where as we have been reporting over the past 18 months, the NAR is explicitly exempt from AML provisions. In fact, the NAR would welcome all illegally procured foreign capital, especially if in a few months the US District Attorney earns some cheap brownie points announcing said real estate has been confiscated (as we saw recently in New York not once but twice).