'If you look at the last 25 quarters, we’ve only met or beaten expectations six times'.
Bankers face a daunting environment today, particularly chief executives of European institutions—as Tidjane Thiam of Credit Suisse has learned firsthand. Since Thiam took the reins as CEO in July 2015, the 160-year-old bank has lost more than half its market value. Critics have scrutinized him from the start for a lack of banking experience, and the Swiss media has repeatedly speculated about a possible replacement.
Bloomberg Markets reports that Thiam, born in the Ivory Coast, studied engineering at École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris, one of France’s most prestigious universities, before working as a consultant at McKinsey, then rising in his native country’s government to become a cabinet member, and eventually taking over as CEO of insurer Prudential.
Months after Thiam’s start at Credit Suisse—a bank steeped in history but mired in controversy—Thiam announced his strategy: expand wealth management and reduce dependence on trading. He raised capital and pushed ahead with cost cuts. An abysmal first quarter was followed by an unexpected second-quarter profit. Supporters say Thiam’s turnaround is already working: Operating expenses recently fell to the lowest level in more than two years, and the lender’s core capital ratio increased.
Over two interviews in July, Thiam explained why sports is a blueprint for running a bank; divulged what type of criticism wounds him most; and discussed the bank’s strategy, progress, and many challenges. “Luck is not a strategy,” he says.
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