A spying scandal at Credit Suisse has led to the resignation of one of the world’s most influential black executives, Tidjane Thiam who served as CEO of the investment banking firm since 2015. His resignation comes due to revelations that the Swiss bank and financial services giant spied on two former executives, the company reported Friday.
Thiam, who was named on the 2017 Black Enterprise 300 Most Powerful Executives list, will resign Feb. 14. He will be replaced by Thomas Gottstein, the current CEO of Credit Suisse’s Swiss operations, the bank reported.
Credit Suisse has reportedly accused former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee of orchestrating the snooping operation that targeted a pair of former leaders.
The move marks the end of a 4½-year run for Thiam as the boss at Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-largest bank by assets behind USB Group AG, the Wall Street Journal reported. Credit Suisse is a rival to Wall Street in the investment banking business. Thiam’s departure reportedly came after months of pressure tied to the espionage scandal, in spite of being supported by many key shareholders in recent days.
After taking over Credit Suisse in 2015, Thiam was fixated on cutting costs, reducing risk, shrinking investment banking to focus more on wealth management, and strengthening its balance sheet, Reuters reported.
The turnaround led to three years of straight losses. Yet, the bank returned to profitability in 2018, leading to acclaim for Thiam. His accomplishments came though Thiam reportedly had no previous banking experience before taking the top Credit Suisse leadership role.
Thiam, 57, maintained Friday that he had “no knowledge” of the scheme, reiterating previous findings from the bank that there were no signs of his involvement. “It undoubtedly disturbed Credit Suisse and caused anxiety and hurt,” Thiam said in a statement. “I regret that this happened and it should never have taken place.”
Thiam’s exit reportedly follows an internal battle between the CEO and Urs Rohner, the chairman of Credit Suisse’s board of directors. The board backed Rohner Friday to complete his term and stay at the helm until April 2021, according to a news release.
Bouee resigned in October after Credit Suisse discovered he directed a spying operation against former wealth management boss Iqbal Khan, who left the bank to join rival UBS. Credit Suisse then admitted in December that Bouee also ordered surveillance of former human resources boss Peter Goerke in February 2019.
Switzerland’s financial supervisor is conducting its own probe of the spying scandal.
Born in Ivory Coast and educated at France’s elite Ecole Polytechnique University, Thiam became Credit Suisse’s first African-born chief executive when he joined the bank after serving as CEO of the British life insurance company Prudential. He was among the roughly two dozen business leaders who dined with President Trump at last month’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Thiam disclosed he was proud of turning the bank around during his tenure. He precisely lauded the growth of its wealth management arm and the reinvigoration of its global markets business.
“It is to his credit that Credit Suisse is standing on a very solid foundation and has returned successfully to profit,” Rohner said in a statement.