Banker Of The Year, Euromoney: Tidjane Thiam Brought Revolution To Credit Suisse

Written by Ann Brown

 

Tidjane Thiam is a French-Ivorian banker who has brought “a revolution” to famed Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

Thiam has served as CEO of Credit Suisse since March 2015 and in that time, he has changed the way the bank works. In the process, he has been credited with reviving the institution that was founded 162 years ago in 1856.

It hasn’t been easy for Thiam. “His three-year battle to reduce risk, cut costs, raise capital, deal with regulators and identify and grow more promising business will be a case study in bank restructuring,” Euromoney reported.

Thiam was appointed CEO in March 2015 to succeed Brady Dougan. “Taking over from a legendary figure at the firm at a troubled moment in its history, Thiam studied the earnings profile, growth potential, embedded risks and running costs of each of the bank’s core businesses, as well as the group capital position and reporting structure,” Euromoney reported.

Thiam took a radical to the bank restructure, But, of course, not everyone was convinced.

“But Thiam was surrounded by doubters outside and inside the bank. He was an experienced chief executive, arriving from the top position he had held at Prudential from 2009 to 2015, having previously been chief financial officer there and before that chief executive for Europe at Aviva. But the old snobbery of bankers towards insurance counted against him. Banking is a complicated business, not something that non-bankers should rush to try,” Euromoney reported.

Tidjane Thiam
Britain’s Prince Charles, right, meets Chief Executive Officer of Insurance company Prudential Tidjane Thiam, left, during a reception for Delegates of the Global Investment Conference, at St James’s Palace in central London, Thursday, May 9, 2013. (AP Photo/ Carl Court, Pool)

 

“I don’t want to underestimate the complexity of banking, but I’m hardly a stranger to financial services or to financial markets,” Thiam tells Euromoney. “We all deal with the same yield curve, the same equity markets, the same volatility. Yet people were acting as if I had landed at the bank from planet Mars. Saying that it was risky for Credit Suisse to appoint a non-banker felt to me like a cheap shot.”

From the beginning Thiam was ready to make changes. For him there was no honeymoon period. He took action immediately. “His restructuring plan for Credit Suisse, mapped out before he took up the reins in July 2015, was revealed in October of that year and launched at the start of 2016. It began with shock and awe as Thiam recast a bank that had come to be dominated by its markets trading businesses into one that would be dominated by its private banking and wealth management operations instead. CS-shifting-780 Roles were reversed,” Euromoney reported.

Thiam was confident his shift from focusing on wealthy, legacy clients would pay off. “This is a fabulous bank,” Thiam tells Euromoney. “Or let me be more precise: it has always had a fabulous bank within it. Our wealth management franchise and some of our top investment banking franchises were always there. It’s just that the bank had not been managed to leverage all our capabilities and maximize our potential, particularly in wealth management.”

Thiam was right and Euromoney named him Banker of the Year for 2018.

Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — business news you need to know about economic empowerment for the digital age, delivered to your inbox.


About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.