Credit Suisse Tidjane to face the Swiss bank’s vocal retail shareholders.
New Credit Suisse Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam will face the Swiss bank’s vocal retail shareholders on Thursday when he will hope to avoid the mauling suffered by American predecessor Brady Dougan.
Investors in Switzerland’s second biggest bank will vote on raising around 6 billion Swiss francs ($5.9 billion) in capital, part of Thiam’s restructure which aims to focus more on wealth management in emerging markets, cut investment banking and bulk up its balance sheet.
There are no signs that shareholders will reject the cash call. But it will be an important chance for Thiam to build bridges with Swiss retail investors who took issue with Dougan’s large pay packets and failure to learn German in eight years as CEO.
In a sharp exchange at last year’s annual meeting one investor asked Dougan to step down, saying: “A fish rots from the head down. In this case, the head is Brady Dougan.”
Since his appointment, former insurance executive and Ivory Coast government minister Thiam has stressed the importance of Switzerland to Credit Suisse and addressed the Swiss media in both German and French.
Bilanz magazine in June dubbed Thiam the “Obama of Credit Suisse” because of the high hopes surrounding his appointment.
Some recent coverage has been less complimentary, particularly a Finanz und Wirtschaft newspaper report that he charters helicopters in Switzerland, travels first class with his staff and stays in presidential suites.
Credit Suisse immediately said the helicopter story was not true and that Thiam adheres to the bank’s policies on expenses.
The meeting takes place with the market still waiting to see whether Thiam can make good on his strategy.
Credit Suisse’s decision to emphasize wealth management and grow in Asia mirrors moves by local rival UBS.
It joins rivals including Barclays and Deutsche Bank as well as UBS in scaling back investment banking as tougher regulations squeeze profitability.
However, shares have fallen around 5 percent since Thiam outlined his plans in October. UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, has seen its share price rise roughly 1 percent over the same period.
The recent decline contrasts with the reaction in March when the decision to hire Thiam sent Credit Suisse’s stock soaring.
Part of the recent move is because of the planned share increase, which would dilute the value of existing shares.
But some investors are wary of backing a strategy which Thiam said may not start bearing fruit until 2017.
“I don’t want to sit on a story that is not going to be delivered in the first year, but only in the third,” said Guy de Blonay, manager of the Jupiter Global Financials fund.
“So I might look elsewhere before coming back to a story that is perhaps more on track than just wishful thinking.”($1 = 1.0058 Swiss francs)