Tidjane Thiam’s overhaul of Credit Suisse is paying off

TIDJANE THIAM is not the first non-Swiss chief executive of Credit Suisse. His American predecessor, Brady Dougan, held the job for eight years. But Mr Dougan was an insider, having been at the firm for ages. Mr Thiam was anything but. A citizen of France and Ivory Coast, where he was a government minister in the late 1990s, he had been a consultant at McKinsey and had overseen the European arm of Aviva and the whole of Prudential, two British insurers. Before taking the top job at Credit Suisse in 2015, he had never even worked for a bank. Charming in person and intimidating and forceful by reputation, Mr Thiam walked straight into a tempest.From the start he knew that Credit Suisse’s defences against disaster were uncomfortably thin. Its common equity tier 1 capital covered just 10.3% of risk-weighted assets (RWAs), less than at any of its peers. To bolster them Mr Thiam quickly raised SFr6bn ($6.3bn) in equity. Unleashing his inner consultant, he set about reorganising the bank’s structure, steering it towards wealth management and away from the riskier whirlpools of investment banking. Mr Thiam promised deep cost cuts from the start, when, he now says, “there is the greatest willingness to change and no ‘restructuring fatigue’”.
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