New behind-the-scenes insights into Tidjane Thiam’s turnaround at Credit Suisse

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By:
Peter Lee
Published on:

As the signs become ever more apparent that CEO Thiam has revived Credit Suisse, Euromoney’s banker of the year shares the inside stories of a revolution.

Published on the day Credit Suisse unveiled second quarter 2018 earnings that were significantly ahead of what analysts had expected – with pre-tax net income up 58% year-on-year to the highest level in 12 quarters ­– Euromoney's August cover story reveals a series of new insights into the three-year tenure of Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam.

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During a series of meetings with Euromoney, Thiam recalls his doubts before joining the bank over the true state of its balance sheet, hidden risks and its urgent need for capital, and his anguish when he first looked under the hood as an insider.

He recounts how he developed a plan to dig Credit Suisse out of this hole and how the extraordinary notion to list the Swiss universal bank was never actually intended to come to fruition, but rather was the fall-back option that bought him time to turn the bank around.

Thiam reveals the personal connection with staff at the US Department of Justice that might have helped keep an eventual settlement over RMBS ­– which at one stage looked like it might have brought Credit Suisse down – to a level where the bank still had a future.

He discusses his sceptical attitude in a world of random outcomes to a dependence on market trading, which previously dominated the bank’s RWAs and earnings.

And he shares some insights of how his time in politics in Côte d’Ivoire made it easier for him to face down investment bankers angered by pay cuts.

While Thiam had no qualms about getting rid of former business heads, he also reveals how the key lesson from his days advising banks on turnarounds at McKinsey ­– that the people with the answers are always inside the company – fired his determination to promote from within.

The feature also provides a full assessment of progress with the turnaround plan at Credit Suisse, which has just two quarters out of 12 left to run, as well as thoughts from Tidjane and his business division heads on what comes next.