Tidjane Thiam's least favourite business is thriving as he leaves
Depending upon where you stand it's a sad sort of day at Credit Suisse. CEO Tidjane Thiam is leaving and during today's valedictory call with investors he said all the normal stuff about being on a "journey" as well as some typically Thiam things about being "intellectually vindicated" as rival banks follow his strategy. For someone coming from insurance, running a bank has been quite an enjoyable experience, said Thiam. He is now free to collect his 2019 bonus and look at his contentious trees.
As far as Credit Suisse's investment bank is concerned, Thiam leaves parts of the business in a better state than he found it, and parts in worse. Some of the most mixed feelings about his legacy are in Credit Suisse's global markets business, which has been subject to heavy 'restructuring' under the Tidjane tenure.
Thiam arrived at Credit Suisse in March 2015. In 2014, Credit Suisse earned nearly CHF5bn from fixed income trading. Last year, it earned CHF3.5bn, a reduction of 30%. That's twice the 15% reduction in fixed income revenues which research firm Coalition says took place across the market during that period.
Peversely, then, as the chart below shows it's the fixed income currencies and credit trading division at Credit Suisse which has outperformed in the past year, driven by what the bank said was "continued momentum" in its excellet credit franchise. Areas that Tidjane has championed, like equities sales and trading, did well too - but not as well. Investment banking and capital markets (IBCM) did awfully.
Of course, it's not all about revenues. Thiam can also boast a reduction in the risk weighted assets assigned to global markets during his tenure, and to an improved return on regulatory capital. In 2015, Credit Suisse's global markets division made a loss of CHF1.9bn on risk weighted assets of CHF63bn. Last year, it made a profit of CHF956m on risk weighted assets of CHF57bn. Thiam can credibly argue that he has shrunk the unit to success.
This might be true, but there's little sign that Credit Suisse's salespeople and traders are participating in the improvement. In 2016, average pay per head in Credit Suisse's global markets division was CHF236k. In 2019, it was CHF196k, down 3% on 2018 despite the standout performance and a huge (520%) increase in year-on-year profits.
With Thiam leaving, Credit Suisse's fixed income traders in London and New York will be hoping for a little more love. His replacement, Thomas Gottstein, is a Swiss equity capital markets banker by trade, and may not be inclined to give it.
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