Imagine yourself a young American lawyer working in Zürich, delving into Swiss banking laws amid the insider-trading trials of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The opening of a crime thriller? Not for Rebecca Brunner-Peters ’80.
Brunner-Peters, director of U.S. legal matters in Credit Suisse’s legal department, is in many ways a special case. One of the few women in senior management at Credit Suisse, Brunner-Peters is not only an American lawyer, but she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature. “English at Colby helped me to think analytically,” Peters said, chatting at a Zürich café.
Now thoroughly acclimated to an international lifestyle, she recalls that going to Colby was an eye-opener for a Midwestern teenager. She continued east for a junior year at Oxford University. The experience, she said, “showed me there was more out there.”
There also was an obstacle. After her junior year, Brunner-Peters was hit by a car while biking and suffered serious facial wounds. “I guess I threw myself into the books,” she said.
Brunner-Peters won a Fulbright scholarship to study the legal aspects of the Swiss financial marketplace, and over two years her articles—on Swiss banking secrecy and hostile mergers and takeovers in that country—were published in U.S. law reviews, and her research contributed to scrutiny of both the secrecy and compliance with foreign governments on the part of Swiss banks. With her knowledge of both U.S. and Swiss law, gleaned through her studies and practical experience, Brunner-Peters was eventually hired by Credit Suisse.
Currently Brunner-Peters says she is “trying to balance family and work.” She lives just outside of Zürich with her husband, Bernhard Brunner, and their 14-year-old daughter, Nicole. Brunner-Peters points to the cultural and historical treasures, as well as the quality of life, as reasons for deciding to make the permanent move to Switzerland. Another major advantage, she said, is the proximity to other countries: a half-hour to Germany, forty-five minutes to Austria, an hour to France, and just over two hours to the Italian border.
“I wonder sometimes if I am losing my English,” she said, slipping easily in and out of Swiss German dialect at the waitress’s approach. As the warm sun beat down on Zürich’s streets, Brunner-Peters was off to meet with a group of banking regulators. Just another day at the office.
—James Violette ’11