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2 | ifr special report | September 2009 Contents


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3Back from the abyss When Lehman Brothers collapsed a year ago and sent the global financial services industry into meltdown, the UK’s three investment banks were thrust into the eye of the storm. Since that watershed moment they undergone a transformation, with two now partially owned by the government. And while it looks like the worst could be over, they still face a stern test of their strategies.


6Grabbing the nettle French banks have survived the credit crunch relatively well – certainly better than many of their Anglo-Saxon rivals – but two banks in particular stand out. SG and BNP have been beneficiaries of industry consolidation, thinning out the number of rivals, while both boast diverse product lines which they insist can be delivered to clients in an integrated way. There is an air of optimism in Paris.


8 Staying the course In spite of its trading businesses being badly hit by the fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Deutsche Bank appears to be coming through the credit crisis with franchises intact and the firm better positioned to cope with new market realities. It has lost one domestic competitor, as Commerzbank completed its takeover of Dresdner Bank, but with the new combination focusing on domestic clients above all, Deutsche now stands as the one firm with global ambitions.


11 A tale of two banks One of Europe’s smaller countries is home to two of its largest banks. But while Switzerland’s two banking superpowers share a home jurisdiction, in terms of their financial performance since the onset of the financial crisis, they might as well be on different planets. Now, with the economic outlook showing signs of brightening, UBS hopes it can put its woes behind it and rediscover some of its former magic.


14Home sweet home Governmental support, selective though it has been, has been vital in keeping Benelux banks back on their feet in the past year. Now, with the worst seemingly over, banks are regaining their strength, and the main focus of wholesale banking businesses appears to be building a strong domestic presence. To accomplish this, banks are working hard to forge long-lasting relationships with regional corporates.


15 Getting organised It has been a tale of two mergers in the Italian markets. The fortunes of UniCredit and Banca IMI have been influenced by the reorganisation of their activities, either by grouping together divisions or a post-acquisition restructuring of the balance sheet to maximise efficiency.


17 Home and away


BBVA and Santander have had a pretty enviable year in Spain, managing to steer clear of some of the bigger market pitfalls, and making up considerable ground on some of their European rivals in key businesses. With the former the stronger domestically, and the latter focusing its attention abroad, the pair look like excellent examples of how to execute two distinct banking strategies.


19 The only way is up In a year that has ravaged markets all around the world, few markets have been forced to endure such prolonged agony as Russia. After being lulled into an early false sense of security, it fell further than most of its European peers, and has taken considerably longer to bounce back, with a predictably devastating impact throughout the region. But bankers are convinced things are now moving in the right direction.


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Front cover photo credit: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters


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