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2017/06/21 01:45:00 GMT+2

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"We are unstoppable"

"We are unstoppable"

Kristine Braden, Member of the Board of Directors of the SBA, is calling for a level playing field for the foreign banks in Switzerland, wants to increase the financial centre’s competitiveness with the help of a more global mindset, and explains why foreign policy is important and what women do differently.

Kristine Braden has been Chief Country Officer Switzerland, Monaco and Liechtenstein at Citigroup Switzerland since 2015, and is responsible for corporate and investment banking in Switzerland. In January 2017, she became the first woman to hold a seat on the Board of Directors of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), where, as Marco Bizzozero’s successor, she represents the foreign banks. At the SBA’s Bankers Day on 14 September, Braden will be formally put forward for election to the Board. Insight wanted to know which objectives Kristine Braden will be pursuing as one of the industry association’s Board members.

Insight: Ms. Braden, congratulations on becoming a member of the SBA’s Board of Directors. Why did you decide to accept this mandate?

Kristine Braden 1.jpg
Kristine Braden,Chief Country Officer Switzerland, Monaco and Liechtenstein at Citigroup Switzerland

Kristine Braden: This mandate is a big honour for me. We are currently operating in an environment that is subject to continuous change, for example due to new technologies, new regulations and new risks. In order to become more competitive and be able to adapt to the new reality, we have to be completely open to new ways of thinking. This also applies to the SBA’s Board of Directors, and I hope to make an important contribution in this area.

How will this new role impact your day-to-day work?

My work on the Board will allow me to get a better understanding of the financial centre, which is key not only for me, but also for my role at Citigroup. The retail banking segment in Switzerland in particular will be new for me, because Citigroup is a global bank that operates in almost 100 countries, but primarily in corporate and investment banking.

Which area in particular would you like to get involved in?

I worked in Asia for about 15 years and witnessed that banks must constantly evolve in order to remain competitive. Although Switzerland has developed extremely well within Europe, the competition today is global. Cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong or New York, but also Silicon Valley, tech companies such as Google or the issue of cybercrime have taken on a more important role for Switzerland. We shouldn’t just see financial centres as competitors, but these new players as well. In contrast to many other banks in Switzerland that focus on private or retail banking, Citigroup operates as a globally oriented corporate and investment bank. These segments hold significant geopolitical risks, and I hope to bring added value to the Board of Directors in this area in the form of a more global viewpoint.

At the SBA, you represent the foreign banks. What is your view on their situation in Switzerland?

There is a high level of trust in the collaboration between the foreign banks in Switzerland, and at the same time, there’s a healthy competitive environment. The foreign banks are important for the financial centre and an important pillar when it comes to supporting companies based in Switzerland. We have to strengthen the foreign banks’ position and help them to be more successful.

How can the foreign banks’ position be strengthened?

Foreign banks need to be on a level playing field with the Swiss banks. They require a regulatory environment that supports them in their role and that takes their particular characteristics into consideration. Our laws are primarily designed with Swiss banks in mind, banks that are able to implement rules and requirements top-down. However, the rules do not always take into consideration the fact that foreign banks are part of an international group of companies and therefore have different organisational structures. For example, when it comes to outsourcing at a company that is part of a global network, repatriating parts that have been outsourced is not that easy. The costs in Switzerland are another challenge for foreign banks. Against the backdrop of global competition, we at Citigroup want to increasingly incorporate new technologies into our business model in order to be able to reduce costs. But in the fintech segment, Switzerland still has development potential. Another important area is certification for client advisors. We support standardised certification for the Swiss financial centre, because it enables the financial centre to demonstrate that its standards of quality are identical to international standards. That’s sure to also positively impact competitiveness.

What influence do developments at the foreign banks have on the financial centre as a whole?

I am seeing that Asian or Latin American banks in particular have high capital ratios, are experiencing strong growth and developing into global banks. If more such institutions established themselves in Switzerland, this would open up new perspectives and would be positive for customers and the financial centre. Small banks disappear, and in turn, big banks establish themselves here. So there is a distinct possibility that the current downward trend in employment could be reversed.

What do you think is needed to ensure Switzerland remains a competitive financial centre in future?

A big part of our economy’s value creation is generated abroad, around 70 percent of the economy is dependent on the global market. Risky developments such as nationalism, populism or protectionism are factors that contribute to instability. Countries such as Switzerland, which rely very heavily on an international business environment, have a lot to lose. Our international position and the geopolitical environment are therefore pivotal. Swiss companies and their success are fundamental for the success of the Swiss financial centre. We need a strong economy in Switzerland, and that’s why we need open relationships with other countries.

In addition to work, you are also highly involved in the advancement of women in leadership positions. Just recently, you were elected President of ADVANCE Women in Swiss Business. What is your view on the situation in the financial sector?

Advance’s goal is to achieve a ratio of 20 percent women in leadership positions at Swiss companies by 2020, including financial institutions. In Singapore, around 40 percent of these positions are held by women. In comparison, Switzerland is 15 years behind. I know many talented women in the financial sector. But we have to change our way of thinking if we want to help them advance. There are many rules and factors in Switzerland that are not necessarily favourable for women. Take Asia as an example, childcare there is very cheap, while here in Switzerland, it’s a luxury. A change in thinking is not only needed in the banking world – it has to go further than that, and it has to take place across the board.

Your colleague on the Board and Chairman of UBS, Axel A. Weber, said in an interview with the Handelszeitung that a greater number of women in leadership positions could potentially have prevented the financial crisis. What is it that women do better?

Women are more averse to risk and are better at assessing their abilities. They may work in a somewhat more cautious manner, but they bring new perspectives to a discussion. Take the UN conference on Syria in April, for example, where women were invited and heard for the first time. This was also the first time that the discussion was about the women and children impacted by this war and not weapons. It’s not that women do things better, but they promote dialogue thanks to their different views, which is important for reaching broadly-supported decisions. Teams that have members with differing views generally achieve a better result.

What would you like to see happen in the Swiss financial centre?

I see a more global, more technological financial centre that is strong and competitive, regardless of the risks or challenges it is confronted with. Thanks to our stability and expertise, we are unstoppable.

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