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“I’m a top contractor at Credit Suisse. Life here is bad”

This my sound like I’m boasting, but within my area I’m one of the top contractors in the City of London. I’ve worked in contract roles at most major banks for well over a decade. Banks know me. I know their technology, I know their processes, I know the regulatory environment. I’m one of the SAS (the Special Forces if you’re in the U.S.). I’m brought in to do a specific job. I do it well, and then I move on. I’m well respected for this.

Except at Credit Suisse. At Credit Suisse, under CEO Tidjane Thiam, me – and contractors like me – have been treated like easily disposable juniors. And it’s time someone spoke out.

Credit Suisse has been cutting contractors instead of full time staff. The bank has cut over 3,000 contractors in the past year.  This is 12% of its total, but the damage to individual teams has been far greater – I’ve seen teams working on regulatory initiatives cut from 50 to 3 people. Ok, this is partly the nature of regulatory work, but some of these cuts have been to teams where regulations have yet to be implemented.

If you’re a CEO and you’re trying to take out costs, contractors might seem like a soft target. You can get rid of us without paying severance. You can squeeze our day rate. You can force us to take a furlough over December so that we lose an entire month’s pay. You can’t do this stuff with employees.

So why not squeeze your contract staff? Because you need us.

It’s my opinion that Thiam doesn’t understand how investment banks really work. He doesn’t get that the roles done by contractors are often related to complex regulation and can’t easily be taken on by full-time staff. Nor does he get that it actually makes sense to hire contractors: we can go from zero to sixty overnight and leave when the work is done. By comparison, it takes months to train-up full time staff, and you’re stuck with them afterwards. Personally, I’ve seen experienced contractors who know my area inside out struggling to train up juniors from the pool of Credit Suisse project managers – juniors who are way out of their depth and who will make mistakes. Balls are being dropped and processes are falling apart as a result.

This isn’t all though. Thiam doesn’t seem to appreciate that contractors talk to each other, and that we remember. People who are being burned at Credit Suisse won’t want to work here again. There are better banks out there that treat contractors decently – banks like Barclays, which recognize what we have to offer and aren’t out to squeeze us at every opportunity. Contracting is a two way street: if you’re a great place to work, great contractors will come to you for a lower rate. If you’re not, contractors will either charge a higher rate or will avoid you like the plague – and your ability to respond adequately to regulatory demands will be reduced because of it. There will always be people with big mortgages to pay, but this isn’t everyone – a lot of experienced contractors have made their money and can pick and choose where to go.

There are plenty of monkeys working on banks’ internal project teams. If you offer peanuts, they’ll come running. But if you want someone who can actually do the job, who can make sure you meet your regulatory deadlines and who really understands what’s required, you may need temporary help from outside. You need to be pragmatic. Thiam isn’t, and in my opinion Credit Suisse is suffering as a result.

Suzie Wang is the pseudonym of a contractor at Credit Suisse. This subjective piece reflects her opinion and is not a representation of the opinion of eFinancialCareers. 


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Photo credit: Credit Suisse Gebäude by Btina Widmer is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Comments (5)

Comments
  1. Good on you Nicola!

  2. Can’t say Nicola is wrong. I just left. Own accord. (Zurich – the pictured building). Refused to sign the 3-month-er on offer because a future model was still not decided on. And the approved internalization was withdrawn because of changing models by the out of touch higher-ups. “no more internalization or new permie hires” for the department in question.

    Something with more certainty came along, even at a slightly lower rate. Took it.

    But there are some really good permies there. My manager, for example, was a class-A manager. It’s the higher ups that cause the trickle-down effect of uncertainty making many want to leave. Where it seems the others have all reverse their outsourcing, CS seems to want to accelerate it to India, even forcing existing contractors to switch to Indian agencies by the new year.
    As a moral duty to the European contract worker, it gave me even more reason to leave. I could see myself being asked to train my replacement in the near future.
    Nope. That’s me out.
    And instead of whinging, Nicola, if you’re as hot as you say, you should get better easily, no?

  3. Solid burn. The article is one sided and written by a clearly disgruntled contractor. Companies are only as good as their people. You can have outstanding employees and outstanding contractors. It all depends on the person. You can also have the opposite. Contractors and employees each have their pros and cons but generally you can sort the wheat from the chaff by walking the floors after 7pm or scanning your inbox after this time will show who is showing dedication. Who is going the extra mile. This is not to say those that do every thing during office hours aren’t working hard or more efficiently but in the endless world of project work where something needs to be done, those that show dedication and accountability should be rewarded. Work gravitates to good people. Firms that fail to recognise good people deserve to fail.

    Swings&Roundabouts Reply
     
  4. You know why they cut staff instead of contractors. Because they got FTE targets. Until this year, this was supposed to do the job and save costs. But now realizing this is not working, TCOs (total cost of ownership) of contractors are to expensive (including hiring, admin etc) the cost cutting will go down hard on contractors. so brace yourself for a hard landing, boy.

  5. Notice that C.S. hires EXPERIENCED Contractors and tend to be older. They piss themselves to recruit the kids just out of college, with no experience, give them the keys to the car, but then have the older, wiser, experienced CONTRACTORS, TEACH them how the gears work. Those kids then move up and onward on career paths, and they keep the contractors in place, to teach the next generation. – Notice older, contractors, NEVER get a direct hire position? Ever see anyone over the age of 40 in a new hire training class? Hardly ever.

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