Patrick Zurstrassen, managing director and president of the management committee at Credit Agricole Indosuez Luxembourg, will leave the bank shortly. It seems that Zurstrassen – one of the biggest names in European fund administration, and the man who did more than anyone to put the Grand Duchy on the map in the funds business – is a victim of a merger to full integration for supremacy between the civil service-like universal bankers of Credit Agricole and the commercially-minded merchant bankers of Indosuez within the merged French financial services group. The Belgian-born Zurstrassen remained by temperament an Indosuez man throughout. It seems he favoured building a separate platform for the Fastnet fund administration joint venture with Fortis Bank, while his superiors in Paris insisted that Credit Agricole technology be used. But the crucial factor was probably resistance to a merger.
Certainly, his impending departure has sparked speculation in Luxembourg that it will be followed by a rationalisation of the curious melange of interests Credit Agricole Indosuez and Fortis Bank have accumulated in the fund administration sector in the Grand Duchy. The two banks wish to develop Fastnet into a seamless European network of third-party fund administration operations spanning the domestic and the cross-border markets by working with local partners in each country. However, Fortis also owns 97 per cent of another fund administrator, Banque Generale du Luxembourg (BGL), which in turn has a 26 per cent stake in another third-party fund administrator: European Fund Administration (EFA). Indeed, some Luxemburgers are portraying the departure of Zurstrassen as a victory for the EFA chief, Thomas Seale, which will be followed by a merger of the EFA, Fastnet and BGL fund administration operations.