European investment banks are struggling to make money in a world of zero interest rates and tougher rules on capital.
And their livelihoods are set to get riskier.
Tidjane Thiam, the CEO of Credit Suisse, said that market volatility will spike in the next few months as political uncertainty takes over in Europe.
Italy is set to vote next month on a referendum that could see the end of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s attempts to reform the country’s political system.
The US heads to the polls in early November in one of the most divisive elections in living memory, while France and Germany both face general elections next year.
This is all happening at the same time as the UK attempts to negotiate the terms of its exit from the European Union.
“I think the next nine months are going to be difficult,” Thiam said at Bloomberg’s Most Influential conference in London.
“I cannot remember, in my lifetime, so many elections. Politics are going to play a big role. I think you will have spikes in volatility. And then you also have the drift towards populism in the political discourse, which will scare markets. The next six to nine months are going to get choppy.”
Thiam said that his decision to raise capital ahead of most analysts’ expectations has helped the bank weather the increased political risk.
“Risk is everywhere, risk is everything. I trained in maths and physics and all that teaches you is that basically the world is a big random experiment,” Thiam said.
“I know I don’t know. Only a fool would try to make a five-year prediction in a world that is so random. You cannot see the future, that is a futile activity. What you can do is think through how you’re going to cope with a range of futures and then you define a risk appetite — which is what probably of death are you comfortable with.”
“In life you should only worry about the bad outcomes. If you raise capital and you’re wrong, it’s OK. If you don’t raise capital and you’re wrong, you die,” Thiam added.
Brexit was “like Russian roulette, one in six. Actually it was 22%, it was higher, one in five,” Thiam said, but that Credit Suisse had implemented a strategy of “de-emphasising London last year” and is in the process of moving some operations to Dublin, Luxembourg and Warsaw.