Credit Suisse targets annual 10% jump in wealth earnings to hit profit target

ZURICH (Reuters) -Credit Suisse is targeting 10% annual earnings growth in its wealth management business over the next three years as it tries to get back on track to hit its profit goals after loan losses and legal provisions threw it off course this year.

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Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein, who took over as CEO in February as the coronavirus was surging in China, is reconfiguring Credit Suisse’s investment banking business and is targeting branch closures and a digital overhaul of its home business to cut costs.

Kicking off the bank’s investor day on Tuesday, Gottstein said the bank expected to grow wealth-related pre-tax profit to 5.0 - 5.5 billion Swiss francs ($5.64- $6.20 billion) by 2023, from 4.0 billion francs in the first nine months of 2020, as it shifts more of its available capital into the core business and refocuses its investment bank to better serve rich private clients.

“We continue to believe wealth management is one of the most attractive segments in financial services, notably in Asia Pacific, and we also expect to further expand the connectivity between our investment bank and the wealth management-related divisions,” he said in a statement.

Gottstein said he believed the measures would help the bank deliver on its main profitability goal in a “normalised environment”, as the bank acknowledged further uncertainties in 2021 related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but shied away from restating an ambition previously set for this year for a return on tangible equity (RoTE) of approximately 10%.

RoTE for the first nine months stood at 9.8% as a surge in investment banking failed to offset a slowdown in wealth management.

The bank said on Tuesday that business in the fourth quarter had continued the trend of the previous three months with investment banking revenues ahead of the last year’s fourth quarter. In its wealth management division, stronger transaction business, especially in Asia, was offsetting headwinds from the stronger Swiss franc and negative interest rates.

The bank previously flagged two charges totalling nearly $900 million - one an impairment on a hedge fund equity stake, the other a legal provision - that will hit its earnings in the fourth quarter.

The bank confirmed a RoTE target of 10%-12% in the medium term.

In July, the bank had said it aimed to generate roughly 400 million francs in annual savings from 2022 onwards, primarily through the merger of its two investment banking units and a digital overhaul of its business in home markets, which is to include the closure of roughly a quarter of its branches.

It said on Tuesday it planned to reinvest most or all of those savings into technology as well as wealth management and investment banking growth initiatives, including a push to bring its wealth business onto onshore China, as well as expanding offerings for ultra-wealthy private customers and boosting mergers & acquisitions activity.

Reuters earlier this month reported on a new team of senior dealmakers the bank set up in EMEA focused purely on bringing in business as part of its efforts to increase M&A revenue and market share.

Credit Suisse also said it expected to turn around its asset management business in 2021 by focusing more on alternative and private market offerings, and those related to sustainable investing.

Shares rose 1.1% in the first half hour of morning trading, against a slight fall in the overall Swiss blue chip index.

($1 = 0.8868 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by John Revill and Carmel Crimmins