Swiss unleash anger over Credit Suisse collapse

People protest outside the Credit Suisse headquarters on March 20, 2023, following news of the bank's takeover by rival UBS under a government-backed deal. © Keystone / Ennio Leanza

The dramatic takeover of Credit Suisse by its rival UBS under a government-backed deal has Swiss citizens hot under the collar, a survey shows.

This content was published on March 24, 2023

Anger and uncertainty are the prevailing sentiments among Swiss citizens almost one week after UBS was rushed into taking over Credit Suisse after it lost the confidence of investors.

A survey conducted by the gfs.bern research institute for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – SWI’s parent company – found that 66% of Swiss citizens are angry and 60% feel insecure following the bank rescue.

Although resentment is high among voters of left-wing political parties, this sentiment is widespread across the political spectrum, pollsters found.

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The public does not seem totally convinced by the Swiss government’s move to force through the Credit Suisse takeover without a shareholder vote. In all, 54% of those surveyed said they did not agree with this emergency measure. The most critical were left-wing supporters from the Social Democrats and Greens, and those from the right-wing Swiss People's Party.

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The survey also shows that a narrow majority of people believe a temporary takeover of Credit Suisse by the Swiss federal government would have been a better option or at least as good as the UBS takeover.

This idea is especially popular on the left and among conservative right supporters. In contrast, only a minority favoured a controlled bankruptcy of Switzerland’s second-biggest bank.

Most people questioned said they expect the Credit Suisse crisis to have a negative impact on the Swiss financial sector. Over 80% fear numerous banking job losses. Most respondents also believe that the crisis will weaken the Swiss financial centre and damage its reputation.

+ Why a monster UBS scares Switzerland

Despite this, half of those who took part in the poll felt that Switzerland as a business location would recover quickly from the turmoil.

“On the one hand, this is a very emotional subject and there is a great deal of anger among the population. On the other, confidence in the resilience of the Swiss economy thanks to other sectors has not disappeared,” says gfs.bern political scientist Cloé Jans.

The Swiss would like to see some kind of response to the banking debacle. Many of those surveyed feel that the Credit Suisse board of directors should be held accountable, that measures should be taken against high salaries in the banking sector and that they no longer want risks to be assumed by the state.

+ How the Swiss government orchestrated the UBS takeover of Credit Suisse

“These three uncontroversial demands underline the huge disappointment with this political and economic disaster and those responsible for it,” declared gfs.bern political scientists in their report published on Friday.

Who will benefit from the crisis?

The Swiss bank takeover has sparked strong reactions from almost all political parties. The Social Democrats appear to be more credible than the others on this issue, according to the poll. In all, 37% of those surveyed said it is trustworthy. The credibility of the Centre Party and the Greens also rates highly, say respondents.

Unsurprisingly, parties on the right, including the People’s Party, the Green Liberals and the Liberal Radical Party fared worse in the public’s eyes. The Liberal Radical Party came off particularly badly with only 26% of respondents agreeing that it was credible over Credit Suisse.

Could this help shift the needle during this important election year – national elections will take place on October 22?

It's too early to say, says Jans. “It all depends on how long the subject remains in the news, on other possible scandals and on the aftermath of this crisis.”

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