Lloyds chief António Horta-Osório to chair Credit Suisse

Portuguese banker to take over at Swiss bank in wake of spying scandal

The outgoing boss of Lloyds Banking Group is taking over as chairman at Credit Suisse, where he will deal with the fallout of the Swiss lender’s spying scandal.

Credit Suisse announced on Tuesday it had chosen António Horta-Osório to replace chairman Urs Rohner, who promised to step down earlier this year after the bank ousted ex-chief executive Tidjane Thiam after the corporate espionage row.

The 56-year-old Portuguese banker, who will take over in May, will face the challenge of boosting Credit Suisse’s image following the scandal, which has sent shockwaves through the country’s secretive banking industry and is being investigated by Swiss regulators.

Credit Suisse admitted to hiring private detectives to track two of its executives last year. While it blamed – and sacked – its former chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouée over both incidents, lawyers hired by Credit Suisse have reportedly uncovered two previous incidents in which the bank separately had staff followed in Asia and New York in 2017 and 2018.

Credit Suisse said it does not condone spying on staff. “Due to the ongoing enforcement proceedings by [Swiss regulator] Finma, with which Credit Suisse has been cooperating since the beginning, we are not commenting further on the matter at this time.”

Thiam’s ousting has also raised concerns about alleged discrimination in the Swiss banking sector. In one incident, Thiam, who was the only black boss of a big global bank, reportedly walked out of Rohner’s Studio 54-themed birthday party last November when a black performer dressed as a janitor danced on stage. Rohner’s friends also performed a number, all of them wearing afro wigs.

Credit Suisse later apologised for “any offence caused”.

Horta-Osório will leave behind a separate scandal at Lloyds Banking Group, which is still dealing with a compensation programme linked to a £245m loan scam at the HBOS Reading branch that pre-dated his appointment in 2011. Six people were jailed in 2017 over the scam.

Lloyds – which rescued HBOS from collapse in and subsequently took a £20.3bn state bailout in 2008– is also awaiting the results of an an inquiry into issues including whether Lloyds tried to cover up the scandal.

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Horta-Osório also had to handle the aftermath of the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal, which cost Lloyds around £22bn.

However, Horta-Osório has gained accolades for returning the bank to profit and private ownership during this near-decade-long tenure at Lloyds, which is the UK’s largest domestic lender.

Lloyds could temporarily be led by its finance chief William Chalmers until Horta-Osório’s replacement – incoming chief executive Charlie Nunn – completes his notice period and garden leave at rival HSBC.

Credit Suisse has not disclosed the size of Horta-Osorio’s pay packet, but is expected to reveal the terms of his contract by the end of April when the bank holds its annual shareholder meeting.

Horta-Osório – who was the UK’s highest-paid banker until earlier this year – earned £4.7m in 2019. However, he could take a pay cut at Credit Suisse, which paid its outgoing chairman 4.7m Swiss francs (£3.9m), including 1.5m Swiss francs worth of shares, last year.


Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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