Because of multiyear teamwork between David and a Julius Baer Asian team the possibility of visiting Singapore on a business trip presented itself. David finally managed to travel to Singapore in April 2023. Main summary: tropically hot (between 28 and 34°C all the time, also at night) and sticky (98-99% humidity all the time)! It is no wonder that Singaporeans spend most of their time in air conditioned, cooled malls and offices.
Singapore is in many ways a fascinating city state. There is the lingering resonance of the British empire connection, the fact that the main official language is (British) English. Then there is the clear fusion of Chinese and Malaysian ethnic groups, with a large contingent of Indian guest workers and a substantial number of ex-pat British and Australians. The short occupation by Japan also left its mark. Not much remains of the old Singapore, except some representative buildings and gardens left behind by the British, along with many names reminiscent of the period of British rule. There is a large Chinatown area with temples and a Little India district. Most of the city is high-rise blocks with wide thoroughfares and a lot of greenery. As a pedestrian it is pleasant to walk around, with plants separating the pavement from the cars and sunshades to take away the unbearably strong direct sun in the middle of the day. Also, most buildings have a public lobby at street level, making the city feel accessible. The public transport is efficient and everything is very clean.
Some of the architecture is magnificent, with considerable levels of greening and parks. The Marina Bay area with its iconic “boat” building on three legs surrounded by parks with enormous artificial trees that are lit at night, and at least two malls with large artificial waterfalls, one real (in “Jewel” at the airport) and one out of LEDs (in the Convention Centre by Marina Bay). Julius Baer’s main representative office is also down by the waterfront in Marina One on the 28th floor, with commanding views. The office I worked in was around 30 minutes away by bus and/or metro.
To escape the buildings and motorways is hard. It took over an hour of metro and bus, and a “bumboat” to get away from the blocks and across to the island of Pulau Ubin, which is a National Park and mostly jungle, mangroves and wetlands. Despite the tropical, sweaty weather conditions, a very interesting experience. Rounding that day off was a visit to the beautiful Botanic Gardens.
One is nevertheless left with the feeling that the whole thing is artificial and not really sustainable. Considerable energy is needed to power all that cooling. Singapore is dependent for its energy and fresh water on Malaysia. There are still many cars (however, the total number is limited) and the buses are almost exclusively petrol or diesel driven. Food and goods are entirely imported. Everything seems to be wrapped in single-use plastic. There is pretty well no local food production. And, with climate warming increasing the temperatures, it will soon become unbearable (or even lethal!) to remain outside at all.
After nearly 170 years, Credit Suisse was merged into UBS, creating a monster bank by use of Emergency Law that dominates the Swiss market, being really “far too big to fail”! I worked for nearly fourteen years for that company, with ups and towards the end mostly downs…
I thought that Switzerland would act economically liberally… And that the “too big to fail” regulations (which were designed by very clever brains over a very long period of time) would take effect… No way! Would it not have been possible to nationalise the Swiss CS Bank in the short term? And finance the rest via the “too big to fail” rescue mechanism without creating an even larger big bank with a monopoly? And without injecting state funds without conditions and using Emergency Law (really: emergency law!) to override the legal protections of shareholders and debt-holders? And without at least doing something to support local players? And without even symbolically demanding anything from all those “CS captains of industry” of recent years?
After I had heard the news on Sunday evening I reacted like this (comment on an article in the newspaper “Republik”):
What a good deal, UBS! Low purchase price, downside risks covered by the state. Upside potential enormous. Monopoly set up by the state. Where are the conditions that should have accompanied this outrageous intervention by the government? The two banks are actually private! Who protects the groups that are “too small not to fail”? SMEs in Switzerland, employees, small shareholders,… A black day for the once proud Swiss banking sector! And for Switzerland, unfortunately!
The picture above shows the Chairman of the Swiss National Bank, Thomas Jordan, and the Swiss Finance Minister, Karin Keller-Sutter, symbolically wearing “Credit Suisse” beanies, with the logo changed to the UBS logo! The press conference announcing the “merger” was full of fuzzy speech. This article (in German) in the “Republik” nicely dismantled that aspect! And, if you need to generate an excuse (as Bank Management) for the mess, here is the link for you!
The sun sets on CS Uetlihof…
Pictures from the last ever CS AGM. 1.579 billion votes – I have 305! At least I got a coffee and orange juice for coming…
A large part of our book and CD collection has departed to a better life… As we won’t have so much space for all those books we won’t read any more and all those CDs which are already on the server, we gave them to the Blue Cross Brocki in Jona. Thirty-five shopping bags of books and seven shopping bags of CDs, plus boxes of music and scores. Other selected items from the music collection also made their way to ZHdK and the Zurich Chamber Singers, where they can delight a new generation of musicians. Letting go is an important part of the process of moving to the “Stöckli”…
We took advantage of the 2 January holiday to dismantle a few shelves and cupboards in the Atelier (thanks to Seán for the help!). They will find new life in Seán’s flat share. And the tables and chairs go into storage for a future project.
This year the weather was extremely (unseasonably) warm on 31 December (15°C) and we went out for a walk in the sun after sport. There was a great view of Zurich from the Zürichberg. There were public fireworks again this year after two Corona years, and Zurich was full of people! Our cats were not amused.
We had a pleasant Silvester meal out at the Münsterhöfli, met up with Regula for the twelve bells of Puerta del Sol in Madrid and managed successfully to eat our twelve grapes. The fireworks outside were much louder this year: everyone wanted to make up for two lost years, it seemed. Our cats were really not amused.