CEE architects of transition: Andreas Treichl
Andreas Treichl started his banking career in 1977 at Chase Manhattan. From 1986 to 1993, he headed the US bank’s Austrian operation, before moving to Credit Lyonnais in 1993. He became chairman of the board of Erste Bank in 1997 and chief executive of Erste Group in 2008.
It is more than 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but Andreas Treichl still hasn’t forgiven himself for what he sees as the biggest mistake he made in the run-up to the financial crisis.
“I had always been vehemently opposed to currency-mismatched lending to individuals,” says the veteran chief executive of Erste Group. “Everyone in Austria thought it was normal, the bankers all had FX mortgages themselves, but I hated it.
“Yet I ended up owning a bank in Hungary that had the highest market share in FX lending in the country. I don’t know why I didn’t stop it. I was too chicken.”
Treichl takes some comfort from the fact that he didn’t make the same mistake twice.
“When we went into Romania, I said we won’t issue a single Swiss franc loan,” he says. “As a result, we lost a third of our market share in 12 months – but I stood firm.