Credit Suisse’s chief executive Tidjane Thiam has resigned amid a power struggle which followed a spying scandal at the bank.
Mr Thiam is stepping down after five years at the Swiss bank just months after it emerged two former employees had been placed under surveillance.
The board backed chairman Urs Rohner, for leading it “commendably during this turbulent time”
Mr Thiam said he did not know the spying was taking place,
The surveillance scandal initially came to light in September when a probe found the bank’s former chief operating officer, Pierre-Olivier Bouée, had hired private detectives to track its former head of wealth management Iqbal Khan.
Credit Suisse later admitted its former human resources head Peter Goerke had also been tailed, prompting an investigation by Swiss financial watchdog FINMA.
The bank’s board unanimously accepted Mr Thiam’s resignation on Friday. Just two days previously, he had posted a smiling photo of himself on Instagram with senior colleagues at Credit Suisse.
Mr Thiam will leave on 14 February and is being replaced by Thomas Gottstein, who is head of the bank’s Swiss business.
In a statement, Mr Thiam said: “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.”
Relations between the chief executive and chairman Urs Rohner had been increasingly strained following the scandal.
Key shareholders had publically thrown their support behind Mr Thiam, while Mr Rohner had faced calls from Swiss investment adviser Ethos Foundation for him to quit.
But the board unanimously voted to back the chairman.
Credit Suisse’s lead independent director Severin Schwan said: “After careful deliberations, the board has been unanimous in its actions, as well as in reaffirming its full support for the chairman to complete his term until April 2021.”
The spying scandal, which involved Iqbal Khan, Credit Suisse’s former head of Wealth Management being chased through the streets of Zurich, rocked the rather staid world of Swiss banking, overshadowing Tidjane Thiam’s attempts to overhaul the bank.
Mr Thiam and Mr Khan had previously been close allies, with the Wealth Management business a cornerstone in the chief executive’s turnaround plan. He pivoted the bank away from riskier trading activities, stabilising revenue.
The scandal, which emerged after Mr Khan defected to rival UBS, claimed the jobs of two senior Credit Suisse executives and resulted in a probe from the regulators – but Mr Thiam was cleared of involvement at the time.
But as the accusations escalated, a showdown between Mr Thiam and the board ensued. Urs Rohner triumphed: the man responsible for appointing Mr Thiam also determined his departure. Tidjane Thiam has for many years been a high profile figure in the financial world, even resorting to Instagram to put his message out, and denies any wrongdoing
The bank’s largest shareholders had publicly called for him to be retained; now the challenge for Credit Suisse is to persuade shareholders that his successor, bank veteran Thomas Gottstein, can continue to restore its fortunes.