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Former Julius Baer CEO Boris Collardi Addresses AML Concerns and Swiss Banking Reputation

Boris Collardi, the former CEO of Julius Baer, has opened up about the time when Switzerland's financial regulator issued a damning assessment of the bank's Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime. In a recent interview, Collardi candidly remarked, "Did we create our own set of issues? Absolutely, yes... we had a few bankers who were crooks and a few clients that were crooks. Was it systematic? No."

Former Julius Baer CEO Boris Collardi Addresses AML Concerns and Swiss Banking Reputation

In 2021, the regulator Finma found that the bank had "fallen significantly short in combating money laundering." Finma's scrutiny brought to light the bank's involvement with tainted Venezuelan oil money and its connection to millions in bribes paid to corrupt FIFA officials who were clients of Julius Baer. Intriguingly, the indictment encompassed the period from 2009 to 2018, overlapping with Collardi's tenure as CEO, and resulted in a personal reprimand to Collardi, concluding that punitive action against him was unwarranted.

Collardi defended his leadership, stating, "I find the image of saying 'Oh, Boris was a business builder but he cut corners' not to be extremely fair because there were issues before me, there were issues during my time, and there were issues after me." He acknowledged the absence of a magic formula to address AML concerns in private banking and recognized his role as the CEO, emphasizing that "the buck stopped with me. So I've certainly learned something, but I've also moved on."

In response to concerns about the reputation of Swiss bankers, Collardi suggested that old stereotypes take time to dissipate. He further claimed that within financial circles, it's a well-known fact that much of the actual illicit money "has gone to Dubai and elsewhere in the Middle East."

While Switzerland has strived to maintain its neutrality, Collardi acknowledged an uncomfortable position, highlighting that the Swiss government had aligned with all of the EU's sanctions against Russia, yet Switzerland continues to present itself as a neutral entity. Asian clients of Swiss banks have begun to question the authenticity of Switzerland's neutrality, wondering, "OK, so can we now still trust Switzerland?"

During his tenure as CEO, Julius Baer's management of super-rich assets grew significantly, from SFr159 billion to SFr388 billion. The bank's number of "relationship managers" also saw substantial growth, rising from 619 in 2008 to 1,396 in 2017.

In 2017, Collardi left Julius Baer to join Pictet, becoming one of the bank's seven partners, and he departed from his role in August 2021. Reflecting on his career, Collardi expressed contentment with his decade-long experience as a bank CEO, questioning what more he could achieve, suggesting he should already be satisfied with his accomplishments.



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