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SBC: The Marcel Ospel interview

Over the past three months Euromoney editor Garry Evans interviewed Ospel for a total of five hours, twice in Ospel's office in Basel and once last month, the day after the bank announced its 1996 results, by video link-up between London and Basel. The full 15,000-word text follows.

The Ospel style

The road to the top

The future of Switzerland

Swiss banks and the holocaust

It's hard to think of a bank that has changed so much in so short a time.

In 1990, Swiss Bank Corporation was the weakest of the big three Swiss banks, and had a decidedly mediocre international business. The previous year, for instance, it had ranked only 36th in the Eurobond league table.

But that year the bank set in motion a far-sighted programme to reinvent itself as a top international investment bank. Within five years it made three startling acquisitions. In 1992 it bought O'Connor Partners, the Chicago-based derivatives boutique; in 1994 the large US asset manager Brinson Associates; and in 1995 SG Warburg. The three acquisitions brought new blood to the firm. The old-fashioned Swiss bankers were sidelined and replaced by younger, technically more competent Americans and Britons.

The success of this campaign is unarguable. In 1996, SBC ranked in the top three in the league tables for both international debt and equity issues.

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