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Credit Suisse Bets High on China Despite Slowdown Concerns

While concerns over slowdown in the Chinese economy has kept several global banks cautious, Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse Group AG CS intends to expand further in the world’s second largest economy where its presence has been “underweight” so far.

On Tuesday, at the bank’s annual Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tidjane Thiam said that the bank will work on building its wealth management business in the country. He noted, “We have been underweight (in) China and will continue to invest.”

Thiam also mentioned “We’re investing in opportunities in China and it will be primarily a wealth management-driven strategy with investment banking, because all those clients we’re going to see in China – they’re interested in both.” He added, “Their investment banking needs are real and we think we make money from that combination.”

The company’s latest plans are not surprising as Thiam, the former CEO of UK-based insurer Prudential plc PUK, who  joined Credit Suisse last July succeeding Brady Dougan, intends to grow the bank’s wealth management services focused on the world’s wealthy, particularly in Asia, as part of  the company’s strategy to boost profitability. Thiam targets to achieve over a two-fold rise in pre-tax income of Asia-Pacific to CHF2.1 billion by 2018, compared with CHF0.9 billion in 2014.

Keeping fears over the Chinese economy in the sidelines, Thiam mentioned “I don’t understand the obsession with the slowdown (in China).”  He described the slowdown as a natural phenomenon for the nation which is transforming from a capital-intensive industrial-led economy to a consumption-driven one. Later this week, Thiam will leave for a five-day trip to China, as part of his Asia tour.

Although at present, Credit Suisse does not possess an onshore license to operate its wealth management business in China, it is trying to obtain one.

While the growing class of high-net-worth individuals in China has attracted foreign banks to develop their wealth management business, they also face limitations due to heightened state control and protection of the financial services sector in the country.

Separately,  a spurt of leaked  documents by the “Panama Papers"  mentioned Credit Suisse among other banks such as HSBC Holdings plc HSBC and UBS Group AG UBS that allegedly  used offshore structures to help clients evade taxes. In this regard, Thiam has said that Credit Suisse focuses only on legitimate assets. He mentioned, “We, as a company, as a bank, only encourage the use of structures when there is a legitimate economic purpose.”

Credit Suisse currently carries Zacks Rank #5 (Sell).

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CREDIT SUISSE (CS): Free Stock Analysis Report
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PRUDENTIAL PLC (PUK): Free Stock Analysis Report
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