Swiss Private Bank Vontobel Fires Three Top Executives After Internet Bank Project Fails, Ulrika Lomas, Tax-news.com, Brussels
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Swiss Private Bank Vontobel Fires Three Top Executives After Internet Bank Project Fails, Ulrika Lomas, Tax-news.com, Brussels
16 March 2001

Last month we reported that Vontobel Holding AG, the Swiss private banking and asset management group, had pulled the plug on its Internet banking project, "y-o-u Bank", which had been in the pipeline since March 2000, citing costs and timing. Vontobel, which was the first Swiss private bank to announce that it was setting up an independent e-banking businesss, said a fortnight ago that the project had cost SFr151m in the profit and loss account of the group for the financial year 2000, but scrapping it would not affect its operating results this year. Now the bank has changed its mind about the ramifications of the project's failure, and has announced a "change in management" amongst its top executives. In other words the bank has shown them - rather quickly - the door marked "exit".

In a statement released yesterday, Vontobel said that it was dismissing with immediate effect Hans-Peter Bachmann, head of the Corporate Finance department and deputy chief executive of the bank, operational chief Joerg Fischer and Chief Financial Officer Walter Kaeser. Tony R Reis, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of y-o-u Bank had offered to resign but the Board of Directors of Vontobel did not accept his resignation, concluding that he played no part in the failure of the Internet banking project.

Referring to the outgoing executives, the bank said 'they did not adequately execute their duties pertaining to the y-o-u project'. Bachmann was given his marching orders after auditors discovered irregularities within the Corporate Finance department, for example, said the bank, 'a transgression of competencies - credit limits were not adhered to - and the infringement of accounting guidelines.' Both Fischer and Kaeser were said to have neglected their supervisory and managerial responsibilities, and were also told to leave pronto.

The real bugbear for Vontobel is the costs of liquidating y-o-u Bank, and heads undoubtedly had to roll. The bank said the costs will be higher than initially communicated last month, and stated: 'In the current phase of the liquidation process these costs cannot be accurately assessed, however, because in addition to costs arising from legal agreements, there will also be liquidation-related proceeds. An in-depth inquiry will therefore be conducted at the request of the Board of Directors of Vontobel Holding AG and will take several weeks to complete. It is already clear, however, that liquidation-related costs will burden the current-year accounts of Vontobel Group, contrary to the statements made on 27 February.'


 

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