On Credit Suisse's Collapse; And IT Contractors

On Credit Suisse 

By Reza Ganjavi

Credit Suisse "CS" was the second-largest Swiss bank. On 19 March 2023, it was taken over by UBS. CS shares were worth $71 at some point. They closed at $2.01 prior to the takeover. Shareholders will get around 0.76 Swiss francs in UBS shares for stock that was worth 1.86 Swiss francs as of last close. UBS bought C for $3 billion which is pennies on the dollar. CS was worth $8 billion last week. Owners of $17 billion worth of tier-one bonds will lose everything. A bloodbath for CS and a great win for UBS.

I ran numerous projects for CS over the years, in IT, the last of which was as IT Security Program Manager. I witnessed the company’s culture go down over the years as it focused on profitability at any cost. The last project, I had I saw something that I had never seen in my decades-long professional life. The kind of thing you see in corrupt government environments sometimes. For example, CS had an internal policy that contractors could not serve longer than a certain length of time. 

But a certain contractor who was supported by a managing director (without going into details) was there for a long time against that rule – which in itself is ok in the sense that companies can make exceptions to their rule in special cases – but the issue was it was a strange situation: I was asked to pay him out of my project budget for work that he was not doing for me – and I was NOT going to do that. I was NOT going to get engaged in “creative accounting” – sorry, it’s just not my thing and I will not do it even though my boss’s boss was telling me to do it because it was against my professional ethics. So if he wanted to be paid by my project, he had to deliver. But he wasn’t.

He was the kind of contractor that gives contractors a bad name. I dread dealing with such contractors, who are not candid with information because they view that as a form of job security; who don’t give you straight answers; who are not transparent, etc. I’ve been a contractor for a long time and my clients tell me they love me because when I get engaged in a program or project I give it my whole heart, whole energy, I push through like it’s my own business, and NEVER act to give my engagement continuity, which some contractors do, and I can’t stand that. 

There are many horror stories in the industry about that. IT contractors who come in (even big firms), spend 6 months, and deliver just some documentation – no system, no solution! And they send a big bill. 

I’ve had self-centered contractors in my projects and they’re horrible – I had another one at Credit Suisse too. He was twisting and turning and convoluting and delaying things so that his contract can be prolonged. Managing a guy like that was a big challenge because here I have a team of 80 people in 10 geographical locations and 5 time zones and trying to deliver to a tight schedule and budget, and suddenly we have this dork trying to prolong his contract by monkeywrenching our progress. I dealt with him through a powerful escalation (which I try to avoid) and that solved everything (I got several Managing Directors involved). 

The other guy was similar – drag things on – not be clear – not be clear I repeat – which means he tries to withhold information, etc. etc. all to slow things down, and all to get himself more work. It was disgusting for me because my mindset is 180 degrees different. I’m there to get the job done in the fastest way and with top quality. 

So I was alarmed about CS when I could see things like this are supported by upper tops. So when I read the news of CS reporting “material weakness” in its bookkeeping I was not surprised. I believe it was a cultural issue, which goes all the way to the top – the buck stops at the top. 

But I also worked with many good people at CS and for the most part enjoyed my time there. List of my projects: 


Another story:

I was engaged in product selection at some stage and there were two big contenders in the picture -- two giants of the industry. And internally some managing directors liked the one and the other liked the other -- and there was a big political fight as we were talking about big ticket purchase -- just the software would cost millions. My job was to drive this evaluation and  make recommendations. 

I had a history with one of these vendors so they knew me -- and they tried to persuade me to move things in their favor -- and even promised me perks. Of course I would never do that. I come from the house of a very powerful man of law who never took a penny as bribe because his ethics were top priority. People who knew my father say if he wanted, the bricks of our house could have been made from gold, but we lived a modest life. He did not have golden bricks but had golden reputation as an honest, clean man, which in my book, and in his book, was worth much more than many bricks of gold.

So I did my job professionally, and not based on influence.

Another story:

I ran an IT project involving some 80 resources, in 10 global locationsand 5 time zones. It was a mission impossible and very high visibility, and very difficult. We delivered on time, within budget, and we were praised from all higher layers of management up to the CIO who thanked me for a good job. It impacted many areas of the bank and many people were very happy with the solution we built and implemented.

The company's internal newsletter featured our project with a picture of the management, i.e., myself as the project manager, and the senior business analyst, a Russian PhD, good friend of mine, and the solution architect, a Swiss man. Of course, as with every project I run, fun was a big part of it. When you enjoy what you do, you do it well. It also helps team motivation. Also it was a very multi-cultured team, across the globe. Love and understanding were important factors in our success, and we made life-long friends.