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Morning Coffee: Singapore’s early banking lessons from Oswald Gruebel

Singapore’s early banking lessons from Oswald Gruebel

Lessons from Gruebel

He’s better known as the only man to have led both Credit Suisse and UBS (and for his resignation in the wake of the 2011 $2.3bn rogue-trading loss at UBS) – but it appears that Oswald Gruebel also played a part in helping to establish Singapore as a global hub for wealth management.

“I personally got to know Lee Kuan Yew and his successors during my time at Credit Suisse,” Gruebel, who was also previously chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston (Asia), told Finews Asia. “As a Swiss institute, we were able to provide advice on how to develop Singapore into a private-banking centre. We had meetings lasting for hours. Judging from the development since, it worked. Singapore is a success story,” he added, modestly.

“In the 80s, I was very regularly there and sometimes spent weeks in Singapore…It was a most interesting time of construction. Singapore was pretty rural at the time and personnel scarce. We had to train people. Today, everything is different.”

Whatever Gruebel’s actual contribution, both his former banks are now benefiting from the city state’s prowess in private banking. UBS’s restructuring after the financial crisis involved refocusing the firm on wealth management, particularly in Asia. And under new CEO Tidjane Thiam Credit Suisse has a similar strategy – it wants to add more than 270 new relationship managers in Asia in a bid to capture entrepreneurial private clients, taking its RM headcount to 800 by 2018 from 524 currently.

If you’re an Asian private banker at UBS or Credit Suisse – the two largest wealth managers by assets and headcount in the region – you may ultimately owe your role to Gruebel’s long meetings with Lee.


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Image credit: PrasongTakham, iStock, ThinkStock

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