Will Cerberus’ latest European banking play come good?
After overseeing radical transformations at Bawag and Hamburg Commercial Bank, Cerberus Capital Management now has ultimate control of HSBC’s French retail bank. Former UniCredit banker Niccolò Ubertalli is running the new business, and reveals a very different strategy to the private equity company’s German-speaking antecedents in European banking.
When Niccolò Ubertalli’s mother goes to a relationship manager to make a simple payment to his young nephew’s neobank account, to many it simply emphasises the hopeless inefficiency of traditional banking.
But the ex-UniCredit executive – now resurrecting HSBC’s former French retail bank under the old Crédit Commercial de France brand (CCF) – knows which one of these two potential clients he thinks is more appealing. Even if his nephew will eventually become just as wealthy as his mother, the latter for now fits much more squarely into the affluent customer segment the new CCF is targeting.
“For the next 20 years, my mum will have much more money than my nephew,” he points out.
Cerberus Capital Management will hope other bank investors come to agree with this view about where real value in Europe banking lies, despite the struggling valuations of traditional lenders in Europe.
The US private equity company entered French retail banking in 2017 via the acquisition of GE’s French consumer finance business, creating My Money Bank.