The leap in assets at Credit Suisse’s private bank to a record high has been aided by the bank’s new strategy of lending money to the world’s ultra-wealthy. Switzerland’s second-biggest bank is trying to lure more rich customers by helping them fund their businesses and lifestyles, with shipping, aviation and real estate loans a central focus.
“From the bank’s point of view, the deposits and private wealth product is the juice; the value to the bank has to be strong enough to consider making risky loans,” said Basil Karatzas of New York-based shipping finance advisory firm Karatzas Marine Advisors.
According to Reuters, finance sources estimate Credit Suisse’s exposure in shipping alone is at least $12bn. Newsfront Greek Shipping Intelligence data shows the Greek shipping book accounts for over half of that. Credit Suisse’s new tack of lending via its private bank has helped it make significant inroads into the Greek shipping community – among the richest in the industry – in the past year, capitalising on the exit from the industry of long-time leading lender to Greek shipping, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
Credit Suisse, replaced RBS as the biggest lender to Greek shipping two years back and the latest data from Petrofin Bank Research earlier this year put the Swiss bank’s Greek portfolio at $6.47bn, up a billion dollars on 2016 and rising.
Greece’s largest shipping group, the John Angelicoussis-led wet, dry and gas operation, comprising some 125 ships of over 25m dwt is among those Credit Suisse has helped finance, Newsfront data shows.
“Presently, Credit Suisse seems to be shedding off part of the smaller [ship] owner portfolio and those who are not top-tier names with top-tier deposits,” said Karatzas. “There is a focus away from the transactional aspect of business towards the relationship-driven business that lowers costs and risks but also builds up on the bank’s traditional core strengths.”