July 1, 2015 / 12:15 PM / 2 years ago

Thiam gets to work at Credit Suisse as new team takes shape

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

ZURICH (Reuters) - Tidjane Thiam put his stamp on Credit Suisse CSGN.VX on his first day as chief executive on Wednesday, starting to build his top team and telling staff the Swiss bank needed a strong balance sheet to help it through rough times.

Investors are optimistic that Thiam, 52, will successfully switch Credit Suisse’s focus to lucrative Asian wealth management and shrink its cash-intensive investment bank.

Many also expect him to tap the market for cash and Thiam told staff in a memo that the bank needs to be able to generate its own capital and a strong capital base.

“We will need a strong balance sheet that allows us to withstand adversity, while continuing to invest in the future,” Thiam said in the memo that was seen by Reuters.

A spokesman confirmed the contents of the memo.

Choosing what the bank will do and where it invests its cash will be a focus in the weeks and months ahead, Thiam said, adding he would determine the strategy later this year.

To help implement the new roadmap, his long-time associate Pierre-Olivier Bouee will be chief of staff.

Bouee left British insurer Prudential (PRU.L) around the same time as Thiam. Both men are French speakers and have worked at consulting firm McKinsey.

Thiam also moved Fridolin Walch to a business manager role from corporate development. Rob Basso, who had worked in the office of former CEO Brady Dougan, will now focus on human resources at the investment bank and on private banking and wealth management products.

Basso declined to comment, while the others did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The capital question will be a major one for Thiam.

Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Dirk Becker has estimated Credit Suisse needs an extra 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.4 billion) to bring core capital levels close to that of cross-town rival UBS UBSG.VX, and at least double that amount for Thiam to pursue any major strategic move.

Wednesday was also the first day for Deutsche Bank’s (DBKGn.DE) new CEO John Cryan, who told the German bank’s staff in a memo that a strategic overhaul would be delayed by three months, and to expect tough reforms as he shakes up a group that he said had become too diversified and complex.

Additional reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Carolyn Cohn in Monaco and Oliver Hirt in Zurich; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans

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