Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam quits after spying scandal

Departing executive reiterated he knew nothing about the surveillance of former top employees

Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Credit Suisse, had earlier hinted at a wave of job cuts after unveiling disappointing third-quarter profits last year. AP
Tidjane Thiam, chief executive of Credit Suisse, had earlier hinted at a wave of job cuts after unveiling disappointing third-quarter profits last year. AP

Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam has quit after a power struggle at Switzerland's second-biggest bank, which faces investor pressure over a spying scandal being investigated by Swiss regulators.

The Zurich-based bank said on Friday that Mr Thiam would be replaced by Thomas Gottstein, who is head of its Swiss business.

The spying scandal had exacerbated tensions between Mr Thiam and chairman Urs Rohner, people close to the bank have said. Although several major shareholders pledged their support for Mr Thiam this week, he struggled to win the backing of the board.

Credit Suisse's board said on Friday that Mr Rohner had its backing to complete his term until April 2021.

Mr Thiam was appointed as chief executive in 2015, having never previously worked for a bank. At Credit Suisse, the ex-Prudential boss focused on cutting costs, reducing risk, scaling back investment banking to focus more on wealth management and strengthening its balance sheet.

Engineering that turnaround led to three years of consecutive losses, but the bank returned to profit in 2018, leading to plaudits for the former Ivory Coast government minister and McKinsey management consultant.

Credit Suisse has been trapped in a crisis since September, when its former star wealth manager Iqbal Khan, after switching to rival UBS, confronted a private detective following him and his wife through Zurich.

What the bank initially described as a rogue spying case run by then-chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee widened as details emerged of additional instances of surveillance.

Swiss financial supervisor Finma is conducting its own investigation after the bank subsequently acknowledged that it had tailed former human resources head Peter Goerke.

Mr Thiam's departure does not draw a line under the affair.

Finma is examining the board's oversight of Mr Thiam and his top lieutenants and whether management control failures led to Credit Suisse snooping on its former executives.

Mr Thiam again said he knew nothing about the surveillance.

"I had no knowledge of the observation of two former colleagues," Mr Thiam said in the Credit Suisse statement.

"It undoubtedly disturbed Credit Suisse and caused anxiety and hurt. I regret that this happened and it should never have taken place."

Credit Suisse shares were down 4.5 per cent following the announcement.

Updated: February 7, 2020 12:57 PM

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