Raiffeisen Says Thiam Not Only One Eyeing Private Banks

  • CEO Gisel says seeking Swiss bank with many local clients
  • Raiffeisen may find itself competing with Credit Suisse

Swiss Raiffeisen, a customer-owned bank that bought a Swiss lender earlier this year, is now seeking to buy another one to expand its private business, its new chief executive officer said.

Notenstein La Roche Privatbank AG hasn’t yet reached the “right size” of 40 billion ($41 billion) to 50 billion francs of assets under management, Patrik Gisel said in an interview. Raiffeisen’s private bank has about 21 billion francs in assets under management after it completed the acquisition of Basel-based La Roche & Co. on Nov. 1.

Raiffeisen may find itself in competition with Credit Suisse Group AG, the country’s second-largest lender. Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam told investors last week that Switzerland is full of small private banks that could be targets of an acquisition by Credit Suisse.

There’s a “big consolidation opportunity in the Swiss market,” Thiam said.

Raiffeisen is interested in banks with mainly Swiss clients and would prefer one big acquisition over two to three smaller ones, Gisel said. No formal discussions are under way.

“We looked at two to three interesting targets in the past before we bought Wegelin,” he said, declining to identify the banks under its radar at the time. “I don’t exclude the possibility that those banks could be still targets.´´

Swiss Raiffeisen bought Notenstein from Wegelin & Co. in 2012, before Wegelin was indicted in the U.S. on charges of helping Americans evade taxes. The case ended with Wegelin, the country’s oldest bank, shutting down after pleading guilty and paying $74 million in fines.

Asset management and private banking will be “interesting´´ areas in the future for Raiffeisen, said Gisel, who took over from Pierin Vincenz this month. Previously he was deputy CEO.

Switzerland is home to about 300 banks, many of them small private banks under pressure from regulations, tax compliance, the strong franc and low interest rates.
A growing number are getting out of the business. Deals this year include Union Bancaire Privee’s acquisition of Coutts International from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and Vontobel’s agreement to purchase Finter Bank.

(Company corrects private banking assets under management.)
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