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Credit Suisse CEO Resigns; Successor Named

Tom Burroughes

7 February 2020

The chief executive of , Tidjane Thiam, has resigned and been replaced by Thomas Gottstein, Switzerland's second-largest bank said today. The move comes after the bank was rocked last year by a spying scandal that had raised questions about Credit Suisse's corporate culture.

Thiam, who has been at the bank since June 2015 and praised for restoring the fortunes of the Zurich-listed banking group after a tough period before his appointment, came under pressure last year following the spying scandal. A former top wealth management figure, Iqbal Khan, was followed by people employed by the bank after he had left to work for UBS. The bank said last year that its former human resources chief Peter Goerke had been put under observation, in addition to spying on Khan.

A number of senior figures have left the bank. Thiam had been absolved of blame for the saga following an investigation.

Shares in Credit Suisse fell about 3.4 per cent in Zurich trading today.

Credit Suisse said its board of directors, meeting yesterday, accepted Thiam's resignation, which takes effect on 14 February. He will step down after presenting fourth-quarter and full-year 2019 results.

Thiam had joined the bank in 2015 from UK insurer Prudential. In hiring Gottstein, it is picking a senior member from its own ranks.

There had been media speculation - prompting some pushback from a large US investor in Credit Suisse - of tensions between Credit Suisse chairman Urs Rohner and Thiam. Rohner praised Thiam's leadership of the bank in a statement: “Under Tidjane’s leadership, Credit Suisse simultaneously repurposed our strategy, restored our capital, reduced our costs, de-risked our business, promoted diversity and engendered an exceptional level of co-operation between various divisions. Credit Suisse is in good health and we have a deep bench of talent which can build on his achievements.”

“Tidjane has made an enormous contribution to Credit Suisse since he joined us in 2015. It is to his credit that Credit Suisse is standing on a very solid foundation and has returned successfully to profit," he said.

"I am proud of what the team has achieved during my tenure. We have turned Credit Suisse around. In particular, we have grown our leading weath management franchise, re-energised our gobal markets business and pursued a bespoke regional approach to client coverage," he said.

Referring to the spying affair, Thiam reiterated that he had no knowledge of the observation of former colleagues, adding: "It undoubtedly disturbed Credit Suisse and caused anxiety and hurt. I regret that this happened and it should never have taken place.”

Severin Schwan, lead independent director, said: “Urs Rohner has led the board of directors commendably during this turbulent time. After careful deliberations, the board has been unanimous in its actions, as well as in reaffirming its full support for the chairman to complete his term until April 2021.”
 


New CEO
Gottstein  has more than 30 years of experience in the banking industry, including more than 20 years with Credit Suisse. His track record is based on management roles in investment banking (for which he spent 13 years in London) as well as in private banking.

In his role as CEO of Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd and member of the Executive Board, he has been responsible for its home market since 2015.

André Helfenstein will succeed Thomas Gottstein as the CEO of Credit Suisse (Switzerland) Ltd, taking effect on February 14, 2020. Helfenstein is responsible for institutional clients business in Switzerland.

Thiam's period as CEO saw him restructure the bank's divisions, including a more explicit focus on Asia as a growth area - a position taken by a number of other banks. Like its Swiss rivals UBS and Julius Baer, among others, Credit Suisse has had to handle negative official Swiss interest rates.

 

In an interview earlier this month, the largest single shareholder in Credit Suisse, David Herro, has put his weight behind Thiam, saluting the latter's work in improving the performance of the bank. The US investor, whose views are regularly aired by the media, said the scandal about spying on former senior figure Iqbal Khan was a relatively minor issue and irrelevant to the wider wealth management world outside Zurich’s financial district.

(Last year, when the scandal broke, this news service - along with a lot of other people it had spoken to - speculated that while Thiam was not implicated in the spying scandal, the fact that it had happened at all would put him under pressure. So it has proved. To some degree his departure was not surprising anyway because there has been an expectation that after turning the bank's fortunes around, he may seek future opportunities at some point.)