Credit Suisse poaches Prudential's Thiam for Asian push

Tue Mar 10, 2015 4:04pm EDT
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By Joshua Franklin, Carolyn Cohn and Lisa Jucca

ZURICH/LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Credit Suisse has swooped on Prudential boss Tidjane Thiam to lead the Swiss bank in a push to manage more of the wealth held by Asia's fast growing club of multi-millionaires.

Thiam, a 52-year-old former Ivory Coast government minister, will replace American chief executive Brady Dougan, who has drawn fire for failing to reform the bank and scale back its risky investment banking business fast enough.

In a sign of Thiam's standing with investors, news of his move added almost $3 billion to Credit Suisse's market value on Tuesday and cut Prudential's by nearly $2 billion.

As Prudential (PRU.L: Quote) boss - and the first black head of a FTSE 100 company - Thiam has built up a strong Asian track record, expanding the British-based insurer's sales in the region since 2009 and trebling its share price in the process.

While Thiam has never run a bank, shareholders and analysts regard his experience in dealing with financial regulators as a strength while lenders must implement a blitz of new rules imposed following the global financial crisis.

Dougan, 55, had been criticized for not paring back Credit Suisse's CSGN.VX investment bank enough after the introduction of global regulations forcing banks to hold more capital so that they could survive another crisis.

Chairman Urs Rohner said the bank would press on with its current strategy under Thiam, a multi-linguist whose private interests range from soccer to Russian literature.

"As you know, we have a strategy of growing the wealth management business," Rohner said, adding that he wanted a more balanced allocation of the bank's capital between the wealth management and the investment banking businesses. "It is not about a fundamental redirection," he told a news conference.   Continued...

Tidjane Thiam speaks during a Credit Suisse news conference in Zurich, March 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann