When Credit Suisse ruled the IPO game

The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen the day after its shares dropped approximately 30%, on March 16, 2023 at its Oerlikon office building in Zurich, Switzerland.
In the ‘90s Frank Quattrone put Silicon Valley—and Credit Suisse—on the map.
Arnd Wiegmann—Getty Images

Good morning. Luisa Beltran, finance reporter at Fortune, filling in for Sheryl. 

When news first broke last year that distressed Credit Suisse would be scooped up by UBS, my immediate reaction was: What a long, strange fall from grace. It struck me particularly hard because I covered the firm (then CSFB) when the company was the envy of Wall Street.

More than 20 years ago, one of my first reporting jobs was covering initial public offerings. I didn’t know it then, but the IPO market of the late 1990s and early 2000s would go down in the history books as one of the best ever. It was the Dot Com bubble, a time when the share prices of tech companies like Netscape or VA Linux would typically rocket on their first day of trading. 

My job as a journalist required that I “get the pricing”—which refers to the number the IPO prices at—before the competition. New issues typically price the night before the company’s shares begin trading. Every week, from Tuesday to Thursday, I would call the banks, often several times in the evening, to get the pricing. The next day, the company’s debut would be judged on how it did relative to its pricing. 

In 1999 and 2000, IPOs were dominated by three banks: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and CSFB, as Credit Suisse was called back then. But most of my calls were to CSFB, which handled more IPOs than any other investment bank during those years. Much of the credit for this dominance went to Frank Quattrone, head of CSFB’s technology group and the most powerful banker at the time. 

In light of the UBS takeover, and the end of an era for the 167-year-old Swiss bank, in my latest piece for Fortune, I went back over that time, detailing how Quattrone radically changed tech IPOs, and how the bank went steadily downhill in a series of scandals that it never fully recovered from.

As I wrote: New York, with its financial powerhouses and bankers with slick backed hair, was where the action was in the 1980s. California was a backwater. That is, until Frank Quattrone got interested in the fledgling tech companies popping up on the West Coast. As Fortune memorably wrote in 2001: “Quattrone came to Silicon Valley in the early 1980s, a time when the big Wall Street firms regarded tech banking as just an interesting niche business. But Quattrone believed that the tiny, struggling companies that then made up the tech galaxy were destined to become fast-growing giants. Building relationships with them was certain to pay off, he argued, even if it took a long time. All that, of course, seems obvious in hindsight. But at the time it was revolutionary. ‘He was the first guy in the New York investment banking world to take Silicon Valley seriously,’ says well-known tech investor Roger McNamee. “He was the first guy at a major firm who bet his career on Silicon Valley.’”

And what bets they were. While at Morgan Stanley, Quattrone took the networking company Cisco Systems public in 1990. He followed this up with Netscape in 1995, which was the IPO heard around the world. In 1996, Quattrone decamped to Deutsche Bank, leading the Amazon.com offering a year later, and then in 1998 he moved over to what was then called Credit Suisse First Boston. When he joined CSFB, the bank was an also-ran in IPO circles. But with Quattrone at the helm, the bank began underwriting some of the hottest IPOs including the offerings from discount brokerage TD Waterhouse; Garmin, maker of GPS devices; and Fairchild Semiconductor. The excitement and overnight riches being created were staggering. One Quattrone-led IPO, hardware seller VA Linux, soared nearly 700% in its first day of trading in December 1999.

You can read the full story of Credit Suisse’s rise and fall here.

Luisa Beltran
Twitter: @LuisaRBeltran

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Big deal

Fidelity National Information Services's (FIS) new 2023 Global Payments Report finds digital wallets continue to be the leading payment method globally, accounting for 49% of transaction value in e-commerce in 2022. Fintechs, banks, neo banks, super apps, Big Tech, and device manufacturers are all competing as wallet providers. FIS forecasts that by 2026, digital wallets will be about 54% of transaction value. In the U.S., digital wallets became the single leading payment method among consumers shopping online in 2022, with 32% of e-commerce transaction value, according to the report. Although U.S. consumers are turning to wallets, they're not turning away from cards, with 31% of respondents saying they funded their wallets with credit cards, while 33% indicated funding by debit cards. The report’s data was collected using a global survey of 46,000 consumers, secondary research, and validation by payment experts from each region.


Going deeper

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced on Sunday that it entered into a purchase and assumption agreement for all deposits and loans of Silicon Valley Bridge Bank (SVB), National Association, by First Citizens Bank & Trust Company headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., The 17 former branches of SVB, N.A., will open as First Citizens Bank, today, Monday, March 27. First Citizens Bank will assume SVB, N.A., assets of $110 billion, deposits of $56 billion, and loans of $72 billion. The FDIC and First Citizens Bank entered into a loss–share transaction on the commercial loans it purchased from the former SVB, N.A.


Russell (Russ) Hutchinson was named CFO at Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY), effective July 3. Hutchinson most recently served as chief operating officer for global mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., after holding the position of chief strategy officer, where he oversaw mergers and acquisitions, strategy, and innovation. Earlier, he spent two decades working in Goldman's Investment Banking Division, advising clients in the specialty finance sector, including Ally. Before joining Goldman Sachs, Hutchinson began his career as an associate consultant at the Boston Consulting Group in its Toronto office.

Balaji Gandhi was promoted to CFO at Phreesia, Inc. (NYSE: PHR), a patient intake, outreach, and activation provider. Gandhi will succeed Randy Rasmussen, effective March 24. Rasmussen will serve as a strategic advisor to the company for a transition period. Gandhi has over 25 years of experience as an operating executive with health care services and technology companies. He joined Phreesia in 2019 in preparation for its initial public offering, and most recently served as senior vice president of investor relations.


"We look forward to building relationships with our new customers and positioning our company for continued success as we affirm our commitment to support the integrity of our nation's banking system."

—Frank B. Holding, Jr., chairman and CEO of First Citizens, said in a statement regarding the bank's acquisition of the commercial banking business of Silicon Valley Bank, N.A.

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