Bonuses at Credit Suisse may be slashed by more than half

This bonus season is unlikely to be a good one for any investment banker.

But it will be especially bad at Credit Suisse, according to calculations made by Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag picked up by Bloomberg.

The bank will take a huge CHF6.3 billion ($US6.3 billion) writedown on goodwill from its purchase of investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in 2000, pushing Credit Suisse into a loss for the year and wiping out its bonus pool.

Payouts could be slashed by up to 60%, according to the calculations.

New CEO Tidjane Thiam is shaking up the bank’s structure and strategy, moving away from investment banking towards an emphasis on wealth management. Thiam gave a hint last week that he wasn’t particularly fond of huge investment banking bonuses, suggesting they could warp incentives for bankers.

Thiam, who joined Credit Suisse earlier this year from the insurance giant Prudential, scrapped the bank’s return on equity target as part of a strategy overhaul because he found it prioritised risk-taking over safety.

Return on equity measures the bank’s income as a percentage of how much shareholder capital it has. A high ROE has been seen as a good thing, a sign the bank is making a lot of money. But it is not always sustainable.

“I will have return on equity, we will compute it, but if you pay people on ROE, the probability that you’ll get a low E (amount of equity) is greater than 50%,” Thiam said at a conference in London on November 3.

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