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BANKING

Swiss banking boss resigns over Covid breach

The head of Credit Suisse has resigned less than a year after taking the reins of the scandal-hit bank following reports that he had broken Covid quarantine rules.

A sign of Swiss banking Credit Suisse is seen on a branch in Lausanne on April 6, 2021. . (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)
A sign of Swiss banking Credit Suisse is seen on a branch in Lausanne on April 6, 2021. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

Antonio Horta-Osorio’s resignation was effective immediately following an investigation commissioned by the board, Switzerland’s second-largest bank said in a statement released Monday.

Board of directors member Axel Lehmann was appointed to take his place.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Horta-Osorio said in the statement.

“I therefore believe that my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time.”

Credit Suisse confirmed last month that Horta-Osorio had violated quarantine rules following a report by Swiss tabloid Blick.

Switzerland tightened conditions to enter or return to the country in late November following the emergence of the highly-contagious Omicron variant.

Blick reported in December that Horta-Osorio had travelled to Switzerland from Britain aboard a private jet after the UK was placed on a list of countries bound by quarantine rules.

After arriving at his home, Horta-Osorio asked if he could be released from isolation or if the measure could be shortened for him, the newspaper said.

Despite getting no answer from the authorities, the banker took the plane to the Iberian peninsula before heading to New York for a board meeting.

The resignation adds to the woes of the Swiss banking giant, which was rocked by its links to the multi-billion-dollar meltdowns at financial firms Greensill and Archegos last year.

Horta-Osorio, who built a solid reputation in having turned around British bank Lloyds, had pledged to tackle risk at Credit Suisse.

‘Without distraction’ 

“We respect Antonio’s decision (to resign) and owe him considerable thanks for his leadership in defining the new strategy, which we will continue to implement over the coming months and years,” Severin Schwan, vice chair of Credit Suisse’s board, said in the company statement.

“Axel Lehmann as the new Chairman, with his extensive international and Swiss industry experience, is ideally suited to drive forward the strategic and cultural transformation of the bank,” he said.

The board will propose that Lehmann, who has headed the risk committee since October, take over permanently as chairman at the annual general meeting on April 29, the bank said.

“We have set the right course with the new strategy and will continue to embed a stronger risk culture across the firm,” Lehmann said.

“By executing our strategic plan in a timely and disciplined manner, without distraction, I am convinced that Credit Suisse will demonstrate the renewed strength and business focus needed to generate sustainable value for all of our stakeholders,” he said.

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BREXIT

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts ‘within weeks’

Some of Britain's biggest banks have begun contacting customers in European Union countries, warning them that their accounts will be closed down within weeks because the cost and complexity of operating without a continuation of pan-European banking rules is too much.

Brits in EU risk losing UK bank accounts 'within weeks'
Lloyds Bank expects to close at least 13,000 accounts. Photo: Lloyds Bank
According to a report in The Times, thousands of Britons who live in Europe face being stripped of their UK bank accounts and credit cards, because of the UK government's failure to agree rules for operating after Brexit. 
 
Each of the EU's 27 member states has different rules for cross-border bank accounts which will start to apply immediately the UK's transition period ends on 31st December 2020. 
 
“In some cases, continuing to serve customers would be incredibly complex, extremely expensive and very time-consuming, and simply would not make economic sense,” a source at one British bank told the newspaper. “This is passporting — this is the reality of Brexit.”
 
 
If a way is not found to continue pan-European banking rules, or passporting, UK banks will br breaking the law if they don't apply for new banking licenses in each European Union Country. 
 
 
Lloyds, Britain’s biggest banking group, began writing to customers in August, warning them that their bank accounts would  close down on December 31.
 
The bank estimates that 13,000 customers, including those based in Holland, Slovakia, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, would lose their accounts. 
 
“If customers have regular deposits into, or payments out of, their account, they will need to make other arrangements before their account is closed,” the bank said. 
 
Barclays and Coutts have also started contacting customers. 
 
“In light of the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020, we continue to review the services we offer to customers within the European Economic Area (EEA), and any impacted customers will be contacted directly,” Barclays said in a statement. “The timings for account closure will depend on the type of product that a customer holds, but we will always give notice to customers.”
 
“In the event that no alternative to the European Economic Area passporting regime for financial services is agreed between the UK and EU, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from offering our services to clients who reside in the EEA,” Coutts said. 
 
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