(Reuters) - New Credit Suisse AG CSGN.VX Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam has told a Swiss newspaper he wants quick action to implement results of strategic review he is conducting at the Swiss bank.
“Our investors have grown impatient given the pace at which we have moved. They expect quick change, and perhaps we must indeed move somewhat faster,” he said in an interview with the Neue Zuercher Zeitung printed on Saturday.
He said he had no preference in principle for either wealth management or investment banking and that the strategy the bank develops this year would determine how much capital it needs for a robust balance sheet.
“The bank’s strategy is not a matter of mutually exclusive alternatives. We will put strong focus on Asia without neglecting other markets,” the NZZ quoted him as saying.
“Switzerland will still be the core of Credit Suisse. The country is strong economically and the bank has its roots here,”, he said, adding talk that he was fixated on Asia was exaggerated.
He noted Credit Suisse was already the biggest provider of wealth management services in southeast Asia. “We were helped here too by the fact that we combine private banking with investment banking, which is attractive especially for entrepreneurs. We will continue this strategy.”
In an separate interview with the Financial Times, Thiam promised a “ruthlessly selective” review of the bank’s businesses, amid expectations that the incoming CEO would cut staff by about 15 percent from its investment banking arm.
Thiam’s strategic review will involve executives competing with each other for capital allocations by showing their units’ profitability throughout various economic cycles, although “people who have no performance issues have no concerns,” Thiam was quoted as saying in the FT.
Even though investors and analysts expect the new CEO to scale back operations in the capital-intensive investment banking area and focus more on private banking in Asia, he would not necessarily take the decisions they expect, the FT reported.
The 52-year old former CEO of British insurer Prudential said Credit Suisse may pursue growth by expanding in emerging markets, the United States and Switzerland, the FT said.
Thiam’s reputation follows his success at Prudential, where he expanded into Asia with a clear strategy by laying out medium-term targets, and after an early spat over a failed takeover of rival Asian-focused insurer AIA (1299.HK), built good rapport with regulators.
In an memo to staff when he took office this month, Thiam said choosing what the bank will do and where it invests its cash will be a focus in the weeks and months ahead, adding that he would determine the strategy later this year.
Reporting by Ankush Sharma in Bangalore and Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Eric Walsh and David Evans