UniCredit Bank’s final withdrawal

UniCredit Bank, which until last December was known as Bank Austria here, will cease its banking operations in the Cayman Islands by the end of the year.

Franz Friedl, managing director of UniCredit Bank in Cayman, said last week he had broadly advised the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority in the middle of June of the bank’s intension of winding down its operations here.

‘I believe it doesn’t really have any effect on the general public, as most of our business is related with UniCredit Group and with some institutional clients.’

Mr. Friedl said the move had nothing to do with current financial conditions or any dissatisfaction with the Cayman Islands.

‘Actually, we were quite content with our operations here,’ he said. ‘Tax aspects were probably one advantage, but that was clearly not the sole motivation for being here. Our Cayman operation was very satisfactory over the past 10 years.’

Mr. Friedl said UniCredit Bank was de-emphasising some of its locations to concentrate on its European operations, particularly in Eastern Europe.

‘The strategic decision was made months ago in line with UniCredit Group’s vision of being a leading European banking institution,’ he said. ‘We’re reducing our presence in – give or take – 10-20 locations worldwide and Cayman is just one of them.’

Mr. Friedl said UniCredit Bank regularly consulted with Cayman authorities about its intentions.

Bank Austria started operations in the Cayman Islands in 1998. In 2005 it attained the prestigious Investors in People Standard. The bank was also active in local charities, including the Meals on Wheels programme when it was run by the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman.

In 2000, Bank Austria merged with the German-based HVB Group. In 2005, the HVB Group merged with the Italian-based UniCredit Bank and became one of Europe’s largest banking and financial services organisations with a network of more than 9,000 branches.

Mr. Friedl said at its peak, the bank only had 12 to 14 staff members here.

‘We’re down to four now,’ he said. ‘Most or our past employees have already left at their own accord throughout this year, and I am happy that they found great new jobs,’ he said.

Although UniCredit will wind down its banking operations and turn in its banking licence, Mr. Friedl said the company will continue to exist here doing various financial activities that do not require a banking licence.

UniCredit sent a letter to deposit holders last week advising them of the decision to terminate its operations here.