Grübel, Oswald J. 1943–
Oswald J. Grübel
Co–chief executive officer, Crédit Suisse Group; chief executive officer, Crédit Suisse Financial Services
Born: November 13, 1943, in Germany.
Career: White Weld Securities, 1970–1978, Eurobond trader; 1978–1985, CEO; Crédit Suisse First Boston, 1985–1986, corporate chairman and chairman of Futures Trading in Zurich and of Asia division; 1986–1987, member of the Nederlands Supervisory Board; 1987–1988, CEO of Hong Kong division; 1988–1991, deputy chairman and member of group executive committee; Crédit Suisse Group, 1991–2002, member of executive board; Credit Suisse First Boston, 1997–1998, member of the executive board and head of Global Trading; Crédit Suisse Financial Services, 1998–, CEO; Crédit Suisse Group, 2003–, co-CEO.
Address: Crédit Suisse Group, Paradeplatz 8, P.O. Box 1, 8070 Zurich, Switzerland; http://www.credit-suisse.com/en/home.html.
■ Oswald J. Grübel appeared to have concluded a successful career when he took early retirement in 2002 from Crédit Suisse Group (CSG), the Swiss international banking, investment, and insurance conglomerate for which he had held a series of increasingly important positions over the course of more than three decades. Less than a year after his retirement, however, the venerable 150-year-old financial institution found itself in an existence-threatening crisis, caused principally by the excessive expansion of insurance interests. While still with CSG, Grübel, an investment-banking specialist, had counseled the CEO Lukas Mühlemann against that expansion strategy, and Mühlemann's failure to take the advice had likely led to Grübel's departure. When Mühlemann exited at the end of 2002, CSG called upon Grübel to return as the company's co-CEO, in tandem with John Mack, the head of the company's American investment-banking unit Credit Suisse First Boston.
Born in Germany during the middle of World War II, Grübel steadfastly refused to discuss his childhood or family
life with the media—such a public posture was not unusual among German businessmen of Grübel's generation. He did not attend university, instead gaining his education through an apprenticeship in banking and securities trading at Deutsches Bank, first in Mannheim and then in Frankfurt. During the late 1960s he attended the International Institute for Management Development in Geneva, a "finishing school" for promising European executives who lacked traditional university credentials.
Grübel joined White Weld Securities in 1970 and rose from his initial position as a floor trader to become the chief executive officer of the London- and Zurich-based Eurobond house in less than eight years' time. Crédit Suisse gained a majority share in White Weld during Grübel's tenure and in 1974 absorbed the firm as Financière Crédit Suisse White Weld. Having successfully led the White Weld unit for seven years, Grübel was groomed for Crédit Suisse's inner management circle through a series of assignments at company units in Europe and Asia.
By the late 1980s Grübel had moved into the company's elite management team, handling responsibilities in such important areas as global foreign exchange and money markets. He performed well and was considered popular among employees for his down-to-earth style. In an interview on the Crédit Suisse Web site, he stated, "I'm a person who isn't afraid of choosing the fast track. For example, if I need a piece of information, I'll call the person I believe has that piece of information directly, not via his line manager or that line manager's boss. It's important that communication be fast and uncomplicated. The same thing applies to making decisions."
CSG, the second-largest Swiss banking concern, had long been involved in insurance interests; in 1997, under the leadership of the CEO Lukas Mühlemann, the company took a decisive step toward greater participation in the industry by purchasing Winterthur Insurance for EUR 5 billion. The Winterthur deal, coupled with some EUR 15 billion in other corporate purchases, soon proved disastrous for CSG. Company shares fell to half their 1997 value in 2000, and during 2002 Winterthur incurred losses of over EUR 1 billion. Grübel, who was in charge of the company's private-banking business during the late 1990s, had opposed Mühlemann's policies but found himself isolated and chose to opt for early retirement in 2002, as the company seemed to have reached a low point. Later that year Mühlemann stepped down, and Grübel was quickly called back to Crédit Suisse to become co-CEO with John Mack, effective January 1, 2003.
Contrary to the predictions of some analysts, Grübel determined not to sell off Winterthur, describing it as "an important constituent" of Crédit Suisse Financial Services: "Our priority now is to restore Winterthur to its position as the best and most profitable insurance company" (Grübel interview). The dual CEO structure decided upon by CSG had Grübel focusing on financial-services operations from Zurich, with Mack in charge of banking out of Boston. The arrangement was an industry oddity, leading to speculation about an inevitable battle for supremacy between the two. But any such battle would have to be predicated on the company's rebound. Thomas Kalbermatten, an analyst for the Swiss rival Bank Sarasin, stated, "For now, I think it works better to have two people. But the leadership structure may change" (James, November 17, 2002).
See also entry on Crédit Suisse Group in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Grübel, Oswald, interview by Bettina Bucher and Bettina Junker, Crédit Suisse Financial Group, http://www.creditsuisse.com/en/who_we_are/manage.html.
James, Jennie, "How to Stop Sinking," Time Europe, November 17, 2002, http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901021125-391495,00.html.
Langely, Alison, "Crédit Suisse Sets a Record with Its Loss of $1.4 Billion," New York Times, November 15, 2002.
"Life's No Gas at CS: Crédit Suisse Group Seeks to Recover from Losses," Private Banker International, December 2, 2002, p. 7.
Olsen, Elizabeth, "Crédit Suisse Announces Management Shake-Up," New York Times, July 4, 2002.