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Asia: Sitohang’s mission to save Credit Suisse

With growth hard to come by elsewhere in Credit Suisse’s global network, CEO Tidjane Thiam has turned to Asia. He has given Asia Pacific chief Helman Sitohang not only tough targets, but also a degree of autonomy. Can he deliver?

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Illustration: Kevin February

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam told his Asia Pacific chief, Helman Sitohang, about the bank’s new targets for Asia. At a time when China is slowing, the commodity price cycle has damaged regional growth, Japan is stagnant and uncertainty pervades everything from US interest rates to the fate of the EU, Sitohang was asked to more than double pre-tax income by the end of 2018. The figure for fiscal 2014 was SFr900 million ($914 million); under the new strategy unveiled in October, Thiam wants it to be SFr2.1 billion by 2018.

“I’m not going to deny it’s aggressive,” says Sitohang with a smile. “It’s very aggressive.”

At a time of considerable upheaval for Credit Suisse, Asia is being asked to save it. International wealth management and the Swiss universal bank are being bolstered as priorities too, but neither of those divisions has anything like the same expectations for profit growth as Asia Pacific – now a separate reporting division, with greater autonomy and authority than ever before. 

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