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Credit Suisse Group AG announced that its chief executive Tidjane Thiam has resigned following a boardroom showdown with chairman Urs Rohner in the wake of a spying scandal that surfaced in September.
Thomas Gottstein, a 20-year veteran of the bank and the head of its Swiss banking operation, will take over as chief executive making him the first Swiss national to head the bank in almost two decades.
Thiam’s exit follows an acrimonious power struggle between Thiam and Rohner that was precipitated by top management’s hiring of private investigators to follow the bank’s former head of wealth management, Igbal Khan, after he left to join rival bank UBS. An internal investigation cleared Thiam of any wrongdoing and the bank’s chief operating officer, Pierre-Olivier Bouee, and head of global security were blamed and resigned from the company.
The bank’s ability to move past the scandal was hindered by the revelation of another spying episode in December in which Credit Suisse’s former head of HR Peter Goerke had also been tailed, prompting an investigation by Swiss regulators into the culture at the bank under Thiam’s leadership.
Credit Suisse’s board has unanimously accepted Thiam’s resignation despite top shareholders backing Thiam to stay on as CEO only this week, and instead pushing for Rohner to quit if he didn’t support Thiam.
“Urs Rohner has led the Board of Directors commendably during this turbulent time,” said lead independent director, Severin Schwan, in the bank’s press release.
Thiam, who was born in the Ivory Coast, was hired as Credit Suisse’s chief executive by Rohner in March 2015 after previously serving in leadership roles at insurance firms Prudential and Aviva. He studied in France and worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. before serving as Ivory Coast’s Minister of Planning and Development. When Thiam took over as head of Credit Suisse, he launched a turnaround program to boost profitability and increase the Swiss bank’s financial strength downsizing the investment bank and growing its wealth management business.
“Tidjane has made an enormous contribution to Credit Suisse since he joined us in 2015,” Rohner said in a statement in the press release. “It is to his credit that Credit Suisse is standing on a very solid foundation and has returned successfully to profit. The Board of Directors and I wish Tidjane all the best for his future endeavors.”
Thiam said in a statement, “I will be an enthusiastic supporter of my colleagues, as they continue to build momentum in the business. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to all at Credit Suisse for their support in my work. I will be forever grateful.”
On the spying allegations, he added, “I had no knowledge of the observation of two former colleagues. It undoubtedly disturbed Credit Suisse and caused anxiety and hurt. I regret that this happened and it should never have taken place.”