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Why Did Credit Suisse Collapse?

The collapse of Credit Suisse, a global banking giant and a global systemically important bank (G-SIB), has sent shockwaves through the international financial system. The Swiss bank's demise was a result of a series of factors, including persistent regulatory woes, financial stress, and a discovery of material weaknesses in its financial reporting.

This article will delve into the underlying reasons for Credit Suisse's collapse, its impact on global markets, and the role of central banks in containing the crisis.

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A History of Regulatory Issues and Financial Struggles

Credit Suisse has been embroiled in numerous scandals and financial difficulties over the years, which have severely impacted its reputation and investor confidence. As one of the world's largest and most influential banks, Credit Suisse's stability has always been crucial to the global financial system.

However, the Swiss banking giant has faced a litany of issues, including mismanagement of funds, money laundering convictions, and fraud. In 2022, the bank recorded a loss of nearly $8 billion, marking its largest financial loss since the 2008 global financial crisis.

These challenges not only weakened the bank's financial standing, but also exposed underlying vulnerabilities in its risk management and internal controls. The frequent changes in top management and the infamous spying scandal involving UBS further added to the bank's woes. As a result, Credit Suisse was increasingly perceived as a high-risk institution by investors and regulators alike, setting the stage for the eventual collapse.

Related: The Collapse of Three Arrows Capital Hedge Fund

The Discovery of Material Weakness in Financial Reporting

The final nail in the coffin for Credit Suisse came when the bank announced that it had discovered "material weakness" in its financial reporting process for the years 2021 and 2022. This revelation further eroded the confidence of investors and customers, causing panic to spread across the global financial markets. The bank's inability to effectively assess and identify misstatements in its financial reporting raised serious concerns about its overall stability and risk management practices.

As a result of this disclosure, the Saudi National Bank, Credit Suisse's largest investor, decided not to buy more shares in the Swiss bank. This decision further exacerbated the bank's precarious position, leading to a rapid decline in its share price and increasing the likelihood of its collapse.

The discovery of material weakness in financial reporting was a significant red flag, highlighting the need for urgent intervention to prevent the bank's failure and the potential ripple effects throughout the global financial system.

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The Domino Effect: Signature and Silicon Valley Bank Failures

The collapse of Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Bank sent shockwaves through the global financial system, heightening concerns about the stability of other banks, including Credit Suisse. As smaller regional lenders, the failure of Signature and SVB highlighted the potential for similar issues to spread to larger institutions, exacerbating existing worries about Credit Suisse's financial health.

These events served as a catalyst for investors to reassess the risk associated with the Swiss bank, ultimately contributing to its downfall.

The failure of these two banks also prompted a swift response from regulators, who were keen to prevent a domino effect that could lead to a broader financial crisis. As Credit Suisse was already grappling with its own issues, the collapse of Signature and SVB intensified the scrutiny on the bank and raised questions about its ability to weather a potential storm. This increased pressure on the bank, its investors, and its customers, ultimately pushing Credit Suisse toward collapse.

Related: Silicon Valley Bank: What Happened and What We Can Learn

The Aftermath: UBS's Acquisition of Credit Suisse

In an effort to restore stability to the global banking system and avoid further market turmoil, Swiss authorities orchestrated the acquisition of Credit Suisse by its larger rival, UBS, in a deal worth nearly $3.25 billion. The Swiss government, recognizing the systemic importance of Credit Suisse and the potential fallout if it were to fail, pushed for the merger as a last resort, after a proposed loan of up to 50 billion francs ($54 billion) failed to reassure investors and customers.

The merger of these two Swiss banking giants, both with rich histories dating back to the mid-19th century, marks a significant turning point in the global financial landscape. As the two institutions become one, the combined entity is expected to create a wealth manager with over $5 trillion in total invested assets.

However, UBS plans to sell off parts of Credit Suisse or reduce the bank's size in the coming months and years. With the Swiss government providing over 100 billion francs in aid and financial backstops to facilitate the deal, the acquisition may lead to major repercussions for the European banking sector and the wealth management industry as a whole.

Impact on Global Markets and the Role of Central Banks

The collapse of Credit Suisse had far-reaching consequences on global markets, as the bank was considered a global systemically important bank (G-SIB). Its potential failure raised concerns about the stability of other financial institutions and the possibility of a domino effect, reminiscent of the 2008 financial crisis.

As a result, markets around the world experienced significant volatility, with investors fearing the worst and looking for safe havens to protect their assets. The banking sector, in particular, was heavily impacted, with shares of banks across the globe plummeting due to concerns about their solvency and the potential contagion effect from Credit Suisse's troubles.

Recognizing the threat posed by the unfolding crisis, central banks around the world took swift action to stabilize the financial system and prevent further damage. They introduced coordinated measures, including providing daily access to lending facilities for banks in need of U.S. dollars, a practice that was widely used during the 2008 financial crisis. Additionally, they rolled out swap lines to ensure liquidity and prevent a freeze in the global financial system.

These decisive actions by central banks played a crucial role in restoring market confidence and preventing the situation from escalating into a full-blown financial crisis.

The collapse of Credit Suisse was a result of a combination of factors, including the bank's troubled history, its involvement in multiple scandals, and the discovery of material weaknesses in its financial reporting process.

The crisis had far-reaching consequences on global markets and prompted central banks worldwide to take decisive, coordinated action to stabilize the financial system and prevent a more extensive crisis. The case of Credit Suisse serves as a reminder of the importance of stringent oversight, transparency, and risk management in the banking sector to maintain stability and prevent future crises.

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