Credit Suisse chief executive resigns after turbulent two years

Thomas Gottstein steps down in latest high-level departure and will be replaced by Ulrich Körner

The chief executive of Credit Suisse has resigned after a tumultuous two-year tenure during which the Swiss lender was beset by a string of scandals and financial losses.

The bank confirmed on Wednesday that Thomas Gottstein was stepping down and would be replaced by the head of its asset management division, Ulrich Körner, in an a move intended to solidify the bank’s strategic shift away from investment banking.

It marks the latest high-level departure at the bank, which also lost its chairman – the former Lloyds Banking Group boss António Horta-Osório in January after he twice broke Covid-19 regulations.

Gottstein’s resignation, rumours of which started to emerge on Tuesday evening, was announced alongside the bank’s second-quarter earnings, which showed the bank suffered a 1.6bn Swiss franc loss (£1.3bn) in the three months to June, compared with a 253m Swiss franc profit a year earlier.

The exiting boss, who is leaving after a total of 23 years at Credit Suisse, said: “Despite the challenges of the past two years, I am immensely proud of our achievements since joining the executive board seven years ago and more recently in strengthening the bank, recruiting a top-calibre executive board, reducing risk and fundamentally improving our risk culture.

“In recent weeks, for personal and health-related considerations, and after discussions with [chairman Axel Lehmann] and my family, I concluded that now would be the right time to step aside and clear the way for new leadership to fully embrace the important initiatives announced this morning, which I wholeheartedly support.”

The top-level turnover follows an unprecedented year of controversies in which the bank became embroiled in the collapse of the controversial lender Greensill Capital and the US hedge fund Archegos Capital, and was fined more than £350m over its role in a loan scandal in Mozambique.

Executives also came under pressure in March after the publication of the Suisse secrets investigation, conducted by a consortium of journalists including the Guardian, which exposed the hidden wealth of clients at the bank involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption and other serious crimes over decades.

Credit Suisse in June became the first big Swiss bank to be hit with criminal charges in its home country, after it was found guilty of helping launder money on behalf of the Bulgarian mafia. The bank denies wrongdoing and has said it will appeal against the ruling.

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It came months after the scandal-hit lender lost a long-running court battle with the former Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who said he was the victim of fraud committed by a Credit Suisse banker, Pascale Lescaudron.

The banker, whom Credit Suisse fired, was imprisoned in 2018 after admitting to forging client signatures to divert money and make stock bets without their knowledge, and killed himself in 2020.

Commenting on the leadership changes announced on Wednesday, Lehmann, who replaced Horta-Osório in January, said: “I am delighted to welcome Ueli as our new group CEO, to oversee this comprehensive strategic review at a pivotal moment for Credit Suisse.

“With his profound industry knowledge and impressive track record, Ueli will drive our strategic and operational transformation, building on existing strengths and accelerating growth in key business areas.”


Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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