Tidjane Thiam, the new CEO at Switzerland’s second-largest bank, is sounding out investors for support on a deal — potentially an acquisition — to bolster the bank’s asset management operations, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
Since taking over July 1, Thiam has met many of Credit Suisse’s top 20 investors to talk about bulking up the banks’ asset management business and signalling that acquisitions are on the table.
Asset management is the smallest of the three main businesses at Credit Suisse, Reuters reports. Second-quarter results are due Thursday.
Thiam, a francophone West African, is the first and only black CEO of a FTSE 100 company, FinancialTimes said in a March report. The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 is the 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange with the highest market capitalization.
Born in the Ivory Coast, Thiam grew up mainly in Morocco. He was the son of an aristocratic mother and a father who became a government minister. Being the youngest of seven children made him competitive.
Thiam’s career included serving as a government minister in Ivory Coast; a World Bank executive in the U.S.; a McKinsey consultant in Paris; an insurance man at Aviva and as CEO of U.K. insurer Prudential.
Soon after becoming CEO of Prudential, Thiam failed in an attempt to buy Asian-focused insurer AIA in 2010, FinancialTimes reported. That could revive memories for Credit Suisse investors.
Bankers and analysts said in the past that Thiam could tap existing shareholders for cash to improve capital strength where Credit Suisse lags behind its main rival — the larger UBS — and provide growth options, according to Reuters.
Thiam signaled to investors that he sees most potential to expand in asset management, which is less capital intensive than investment banking and has strong cross-selling potential with Credit Suisse’s private bank, FinancialTimes reports.
Credit Suisse navigated very well through the financial crisis and was one of the few investment banks that didn’t have a hole in the balance sheet, said David Herro with Harris Associates in a Bloomberg video. “The core business is doing pretty well,” Herro said. “This bank has been through a very erratic environment.”