Credit Suisse Group AG’s board has held early stage talks on potentially replacing Chief
Executive Officer Thomas Gottstein after a string of scandals and misfires, people with knowledge of the matter said.
A change at the top of the bank could come as early as this year. While the board
continues to publicly voice support for Gottstein, some members are increasingly worried that he’s not getting a handle on the bank’s problems, the people said.
One year on from the collapse of Archegos Capital Management, which saddled Credit Suisse with about $5.5 billion of losses, the bank is struggling to move past a series of profit warnings and hits that eroded investor confidence, weakened key businesses and prompted an exodus of talent. While the CEO inherited a number of legacy issues, detractors say his team should have better managed the Archegos risks and taken more heed of warnings signs in its relationship with Greensill.
Since the Archegos blow, which led to the departure of investment bank head Brian Chin and risk chief Lara Warner, the bad news has continued apace. The bank ousted reform-minded chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio after he broke covid rules and in recent quarters announced a string of surprise charges, including 703 million francs of legal expenses in the first quarter. Steadily, the ranks of the management board that Gottstein inherited have been replaced after the successive hits, leaving the Swiss banker as the last one standing after two straight years of tumult.
In an interview in newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung, chairman Axel Lehmann gave his backing to Gottstein, saying that the banker’s institutional knowledge is needed to ensure a minimum of continuity.
Gottstein was seen at the time of his surprise elevation as an attempt by the bank to install one of its own at the top to end an embarassing run of tabloid stories on the spying scandal and return the bank to stability. The bank tapped Gottstein, 58 and a two-decade veteran, to restore confidence after the shock departure of Tidjane Thiam in February 2020
following a spying scandal.
While having investment banking expertise and success running the bank’s highly profitable Swiss business, he lacked the international profile and experience of some of his predecessors.
He was the first Swiss-born CEO of the bank in almost two decades and took on the dual challenge of putting a stop to infighting and boosting a share price that lost almost half its value during Thiam’s tenure. It’s since about halved again since Gottstein took over.
Gottstein was seen at the time of his surprise elevation as an attempt by the bank to install one of its own at the top to end an embarassing run of tabloid stories on the spying scandal and return the bank to stability. While having investment banking expertise and success running the bank’s highly profitable Swiss business, he lacked the international profile and experience of some of his predecessors.
Credit Suisse named Lehmann as chairman after he was appointed in January 2022 as an emergency replacement for financier Horta-Osorio.
First-quarter results laid bare the steep challenges still facing the bank as it seeks to regain investor confidence: trading revenue that was half that of a year ago in a strong quarter for peers, legal hits still to come and weaker than expected wealth management results. With little to buoy investor sentiment, 7.9 billion francs ($8.1 billion) of new client inflows was one of the few bright spots of a quarter marked by an unexpectedly large loss.
The bank, which warned that the full damage from one of the most turbulent periods in its history is yet to be accounted for, is scheduled to host a “deep dive” event for investors on risk, compliance, technology and wealth management later this year.