Credit Suisse Group

Six years ago I visited Credit Suisse, one of the world's biggest banks, and picked an inopportune time to show-up as it announced a major restructuring that included the slashing of thousands of jobs. Needless to say my contact person back then was swamped with more important matters than talking to a pesky biker (go to my archive section to read about the first visit).

I'm back at the five-story headquarters partially fronting Zurich's prestigious and expensive shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse. This car-free, tree-lined shopping avenue is lined with expensive shops and banks. Ah, I see the real estate guys at Credit Suisse crunched the numbers and said, hey!, why don't we rent out our prime Bahnhofstrasse frontage to upscale shops. That's what's happening here as finishing touches are being done for some of the big name boutiques moving in on the ground floor. I'd guess this solid, but elegant head office building was built in the early 1900's.

I check in with the male and female receptionists who stand guard near the elevator doors. After some calls are made it seems they can't track down what happened to my introductory letter sent a month earlier to CEO Lukas Muehlmann. All works out for the best though as I end up meeting with nice guy Gerhard Beindorff, Managing Director-Investor Relations.

About 120 work in this five-story building but Beindorff isn't sure if this is the original site of the bank when it was founded in 1856. Parking isn't plentiful in Zurich's city center and only senior management gets reserved parking spots. Smoking is allowed in offices, the corporate art collection is international in scope and there's one corporate aircraft; a Gulfstream. It's eight minutes to the nearest freeway, 15 minutes to the airport and there's a staff restaurant in a nearby building. There's an executive dining room named after the founder (Alfred Escher) but guest dining can also be set-up at the Hotel Savoy directly across the street.

I can't see Mr. Muehlmann's office but do get a look into the fourth floor boardroom. The oval-shaped table is watched over by portrait paintings of 10 past Chairmen hanging on the walls. Revenues last year were $66 billion with 80,000 employees.