Challenge: The changing behavior of clients – especially digitally savvy individuals – and a significant increase in the number of smartphone banks and other fintech firms entering the financial sector are creating challenges for long-established financial institutions. How is Credit Suisse adapting to these changes to ensure it remains an attractive financial partner for clients across all age groups?
Response: At Credit Suisse, we recognize that advancing digitalization and the widespread use of smartphone technology have fundamentally altered client expectations and behavior in many areas of daily life – from the way people purchase goods and access information to their interaction with service providers, including banks.
In response to these changes, we are implementing a number of digital, client-centric initiatives across different areas in order to expand our range of digital products and services along the client lifecycle and adapt the way we deliver them to clients. For example, in Switzerland we launched our new Direct Banking business area within the Swiss Universal Bank in August 2019. Direct Banking focuses on retail and small commercial clients who mainly use core banking products and services. Our aim is to provide a digital, needs-oriented offering that gives them even faster and easier access to banking services – at any time, in any place – combined with access to personal advice.
As a bank for the digital age, we make substantial investments in creating digital solutions for areas with a strong advisory focus to meet the needs of wealthy clients, entrepreneurs, companies and institutional clients. In Switzerland, Credit Suisse has a dedicated Digitalization & Products business area that is responsible for the design, development and implementation of the bank's digital offering across all client segments.
Importantly, we continue to offer a range of personal touchpoints, from telephone advisory to personal advice in our regional branch network. By optimally combining new digital solutions with personal advice, we want to ensure Credit Suisse's continued attractiveness as a banking partner in the future, allowing our clients to interact with us via their preferred channels.
Challenge: International human rights frameworks primarily address states and state institutions. However, the role of businesses in respecting human rights continues to be discussed on a national and international level. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are an important point of reference in this area and marked a milestone in the clarification of corporate responsibility for human rights when they were introduced in 2011. What is Credit Suisse's approach to potential human rights issues in its business activities and client relationships?
Response: We strive to assume our responsibilities in the area of human rights in accordance with the International Bill of Human Rights and the eight fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization. We are a participant in the UN Global Compact and an active member of the Thun Group that focuses on the integration of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into the policies and practices of banking institutions. Our Statement on Human Rights describes the basis of our responsibility to respect human rights and the approaches and processes we use to address this responsibility. Equally, we expect our business partners to recognize and uphold human rights, as stated in our Supplier Code of Conduct.
Credit Suisse's most direct link to human rights issues is in our working relationship with our employees, and this is consequently the area in which we can exercise the greatest influence. In addition, the provision of certain financial services may be linked to negative human rights impacts. While companies operating in sensitive sectors frequently play a key economic role in the global supply of energy and commodities and as an employer, the activities of these companies can, in some cases, have a significant impact on local or indigenous communities. Credit Suisse therefore examines aspects of client relationships or transactions that are sensitive from a human rights perspective using our Reputational Risk Review Process. This process is supported by sector policies and guidelines that include aspects such as the protection of the health and safety of company employees and surrounding communities as well as a commitment to respect the human rights of local populations.
In 2019, Credit Suisse and the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) concluded a mediation process facilitated by the National Contact Point of Switzerland (Swiss NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which was focused on due diligence and the rights of indigenous peoples. As a result, we updated our policies on oil and gas, mining and forestry and agribusiness by including the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with respect to project-related transactions as part of our expectations towards our clients. Also, Credit Suisse played an active role in the update of the Equator Principles, where new commitments have been made in relation to human rights and indigenous peoples, among other areas.
Challenge: There is a clear need to access new sources of energy, raw materials, and clean technologies to make more balanced and sustainable use of the world's natural resources. Investments that support environmentally sustainable development – a sector known as green finance – are thus growing in importance and scale. How does Credit Suisse contribute to green finance?
Response: Our green finance solutions cover a wide range of asset classes and are designed to support the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, drawing on the expertise of various specialist departments. Our offering in the area of wealth management, for example, comprises a number of funds focused on sustainability, green bond investments and sustainable real estate as well as products and services in conservation finance. In investment banking, we provide advice for buyside and sellside clients in mergers and acquisitions, project and corporate finance, as well as debt and equity underwriting of public offerings and private placements. Credit Suisse actively supports clean and renewable energy businesses and, by the end of 2019, had been involved in over 130 transactions in this field with a value of more than USD 100 billion since 2010. We also supported clients on a number of green bond issuances in 2019. In our Global Markets division, Credit Suisse's HOLT offers a product allowing investors to quantify the impact of natural resource usage on the economic performance of companies. Credit Suisse Global Real Estate has a proactive strategy to significantly reduce energy use and related carbon emissions through a partnership with Siemens Switzerland AG. Finally, Credit Suisse Energy Infrastructure Partners, an investment manager specialized in investments in the European energy sector, focuses on direct investments in the capital-intensive elements of the value chain, such as energy transmission, generation, storage and efficiency.