It Wasn’t Just Credit Suisse. Switzerland Itself Needed Rescuing.

The chairman of Switzerland’s largest bank received an urgent call last week. On the other end were three top Swiss officials who delivered an ultimatum dressed up as a proposal. UBS Group AG needed to rescue its failing rival, Credit Suisse Group AG.

For any country, it would be a financial emergency. For Switzerland, the stakes verged on existential. Its economic model and national identity, cultivated over centuries, were built on safeguarding the world’s wealth. It wasn’t just about a bank. Switzerland itself needed rescuing.

It was Thursday, barely 24 hours into an escalating banking crisis and Credit Suisse was hemorrhaging deposits. The 167-year-old national institution appeared days away from bankruptcy. To keep it alive until the weekend, the central bank was about to quadruple a credit line of more than $50 billion. U.S. and U.K. regulators called their Swiss counterparts to make sure they didn’t let Credit Suisse bring down global markets.

Finance Minister Karin Keller-Sutter, central bank head Thomas Jordan and financial regulator Marlene Amstad had dialed Colm Kelleher, the UBS chairman, to present two options that were really only one: Buy Credit Suisse without a chance to fully understand its vast and complicated balance sheet—or let it fold in a protracted unraveling that UBS’s own executives worried could shatter Switzerland’s credibility as a global banking center.

Over WhatsApp, Swiss diplomats asked each other nervously whether they should move their deposits from Credit Suisse.

After a series of frantic calls and government-orchestrated meetings in Bern, UBS agreed to swallow Credit Suisse for $3.2 billion. To seal the deal, the government, which had vowed after the 2008 crisis never again to use public money to save a bank, hastily used emergency laws to do exactly that.

“Credit Suisse is not only a Swiss company. It is part of the Swiss identity,” said Thierry Burkart, head of the right-wing Liberals party, the country’s third largest. “The bankruptcy of a global Swiss bank would have had an immediate effect everywhere. There would be long and hard reputational damage for Switzerland,” he said.

After it would borrow up to 50 billion Swiss francs ($53.68 billion) from the Swiss National Bank, people are wondering who’s next after Credit Suisse.

If you’re curious to delve deeper into the topic, read more about it here.

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