Firstly, some praise where praise is due. When Credit Suisse used last year’s investor day to explain its intention of simultaneously cutting costs and increasing revenues in its global markets division, we were skeptical. Everyone knows the story about the gold at the end of the rainbow, but that doesn’t mean you have to go looking for it. In Credit Suisse’s case, something shiny has transpired: the Swiss bank said today that it’s on track to meet its target of cutting costs to CHF4.8bn in its global markets business next year, whilst simultaneously hiking revenues to CHF6bn. Bravo! Except…
For all its revenue rebound and cost culling, Credit Suisse’s global markets business still seems to have a headcount problem.
In the year to October 2017, global markets increased staff by 80 people to 11,670. This year follows a “major restructuring” last year and a big loss on illiquid trades, which decimated profits in the global markets unit in 2016.
In theory, things should now be bouncing back to new and headier heights. In productivity and profit per head terms, they’re not.
As the charts below show, profits per head at Credit Suisse’s global markets business are better than 2016 but remain significantly below 2015 for the first nine months of this year, and revenues per head aren’t doing that well either. The restructuring of Credit Suisse’s global markets division might be going to plan in terms of revenues and cost cutting, but it’s been pretty disastrous for the effectiveness of individual employees. The average global markets employee was a bit more productive and a lot more profitable in 2015 before the restructuring began.
The same applies to Credit Suisse’s Asia Pacific businesses as a whole. While the Asian wealth management business intended to bring in assets and disseminate revenues across the bank, Thiam added 750 people in the region between October 2015 and October 2016. In the year to October 2017, Asian headcount was then trimmed back by 90 people, but as the charts below show, profits per head in APAC have fallen and are now substantially lower than before Thiam’s hiring drive began in 2015. Revenues per head in APAC have yet to recover too.
By comparison, Credit Suisse’s investment bankers look a lot more impressive. Credit Suisse added 350 people to its banking and capital markets division in 2017, a massive increase of 12%. Nonetheless, profits per head surged and revenues per head remained stable.
If you’re looking for a job at Credit Suisse now, therefore, investment banking and capital markets looks like the division to go for. The only downside is that pay per head is being squeezed here along with elsewhere.