Credit Suisse will open private banking branch in Northbrook

Saying it wants to serve the growing number of high and ultrahigh net worth consumers in the Chicago area, Credit Suisse Private Banking USA is expanding into suburbia.

The unit of Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group will open an office in Northbrook in December in the Potash building at 1101 Skokie Blvd.

It will join a Chicago private banking office that has 40 "relationship managers" and a similar size support staff in the AT&T tower on Monroe Street.

"The Chicago office has been very successful, and we're at capacity here," said Peter Skoglund, managing director and head of the central region of Credit Suisse's private banking.

"Chicago has a diverse and expanding business market and growth in the number of high net worth individuals," Skoglund said. "Until the recent hiccup, the financial markets have been friendly to everyone the last three or four years."

Products and services of the private banking group, whose clients have an average account size exceeding $5 million, include tax and pension planning, life insurance and inheritance advice.

Skoglund describes the current wealth management scene in Chicago as "fragmented," and competition could intensify as other financial-services firms catering to the wealthy eye the Chicago market.

Boston Private Financial Holdings Inc., which does business in six U.S. markets, including its headquarters city of Boston, has six additional areas high on its wish list, including Chicago. Chicago also has been on the expansion list for an arm of UBS AG hoping to serve those with more than $10 million in assets. About 140,000 U.S. households have more than $10 million in assets, and UBS has said it expects that number to triple during the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana became a vice chairman of Modern Bank, a New York-based institution launched in September to target clients with a minimum of $5 million in investable assets. After developing a client base in New York, Modern wants to expand into such markets as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Skoglund, who attended Northwestern University on a swimming scholarship, lives in Lake Forest. He attended college with William Osborn, chief executive of Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp., which also knows a thing or two about catering to the wealthy.

Credit Suisse's Northbrook office will be headed by Christopher Williams. He joined Credit Suisse earlier this year from Bank of America's private bank, where he headed the Chicago and Upper Midwest regions.

The University of Michigan graduate has nearly 25 years of wealth management experience and has led units in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Minneapolis for Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney.

Williams is a trustee of the Ravinia Festival and is on Sears School Board in Kenilworth, where he lives.

Credit Suisse picked Northbrook for its second Chicago-area office because of its proximity to affluent North Shore suburbs and its ease of access, off the Edens Expressway south of Dundee Road.

The office will have 40 to 50 employees, half of which will serve clients.

Other major U.S. wealth markets where Credit Suisse has offices are Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Dallas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York; San Francisco; Greenwich, Conn.; and Irvine, Calif. A Philadelphia office opens later this year.