Credit Suisse bankers have had deferred bonuses frozen by the Swiss government, adding pain to awards that were already decimated by the firm’s share plunge.
The Swiss government is “temporarily suspending” deferred remuneration granted in the years up to 2022, according to a statement. The bank can pay cash bonuses for last year as planned after the firm’s executive board gave up such awards on Monday, the statement said.
Any shares earned in long-term awards are already worth a fraction of what current and former staffers might have hoped for even a week ago. Credit Suisse stock will be converted into UBS shares at a ratio of 22.48 for one, once the deal is finalised.
[ Switzerland’s national pride dealt heavy blow by the merger of its banking titans ]
The share fall wiped more than $600 million (€555.9 million) from the value of deferred stock held by the firm’s bankers. Another 210 million Swiss francs (€210.64 million) of special share awards that were handed out just last month were only to pay out if the share price reached 3.82 francs on December 31st, 2025, which would be impossible now.
Credit Suisse staffers will be waiting to see how long the suspension lasts and the permanent status of the lender’s contingent capital awards. These were meant to mirror risky bonds that were wiped out in the takeover but had yet to be written down to zero before the Swiss statement landed, a person familiar with the matter said earlier on Tuesday.
The move by the Swiss government adds to uncertainty for bankers already contemplating whether they have a future as part of Credit Suisse’s biggest rival. At the investment bank, UBS wants to cherry pick top Credit Suisse dealmakers instead of supporting Michael Klein’s plan to build out a First Boston spinout.
The CCA awards were worth about 360 million Swiss francs at the end of 2022. One of the conditions of the awards is that the instruments have no value in the event of a collapse of the bank. But the nature of the rescue – couched as a private takeover – left some wondering if it was feasible the weekend’s events may not trigger this.
Spokespeople for Credit Suisse and Swiss financial regulator Finma declined to comment.
Thousands of managing directors and director-level staff at Credit Suisse have received at least part of their bonus in contingent capital units in recent years. These assets mimic many of the features of the bank’s 16 billion-franc stack of additional tier 1 securities, which were designed to give the bank more capital in times of crisis. Finma wrote off the AT1s on Sunday to help cover the cost of the emergency tie-up with UBS.
[ Banker accountability is easier to demand than deliver ]
In 2021, just over 5,000 Credit Suisse employees received contingent capital awards, of which 1,229 were classified as material risk takers, performing jobs considered most vital to the bank’s health.
The lender stated in its annual report that the contingent capital awards carry “risks similar” to other contingent capital securities it issues.
Credit Suisse granted the latest tranche of contingent awards to staff on February 11th. This marks the last award of these instruments, which were already set to be discontinued.
[ Can we believe reassurances about the health of our banking system? ]
Contingent awards generally vest over three years, though in some countries the period is longer depending on local rules, and are denominated in either dollars or Swiss francs. Holders are eligible to receive semi-annual interest payments, and upon maturity receive either cash or a contingent capital instrument.
The Swiss statement may snuff out already slim hopes that this slug of compensation might be unaffected, adding to a bleak outlook for the lender’s bankers already facing the threat of sweeping job cuts. – Bloomberg