ZURICH—The chairman of Switzerland’s largest bank received an urgent call last week. On the other end were three top Swiss officials who delivered an ultimatum dressed up as a proposal. UBS Group AG needed to rescue its failing rival, Credit Suisse Group AG.
For any country, it would be a financial emergency. For Switzerland, the stakes verged on existential. Its economic model and national identity, cultivated over centuries, were built on safeguarding the world’s wealth. It wasn’t just about a bank. Switzerland itself needed rescuing.