World News

Credit Suisse’s new CEO Gottstein seeks growth offensive

By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse’s incoming chief executive, Thomas Gottstein, plans to put Switzerland’s second-biggest bank on a growth offensive following predecessor Tidjane Thiam’s cost-cutting exercise, he told Reuters on Friday.

“Cost discipline in our industry has been and will continue to be very important. At the same time, I think we are in a better position than at any time in the last few years to also have meaningful balance sheet growth,” Gottstein said in an interview.

“We want to grow the business. And we are very well positioned to do that.”

Gottstein, now the head of Credit Suisse’s Swiss business, was appointed CEO on Friday after a damaging spying scandal forced out Thiam.

The departure, scheduled for Feb. 14, ends a conflict between Chairman Urs Rohner and ex-Prudential boss Thiam after revelations the bank snooped on executives, triggering questions over its culture and management.

“Each of the existing members of the executive board has committed to me that they are fully supportive and will stay,” Gottstein said following his appointment.

A prominent investment banker and wealth manager before taking over Credit Suisse’s domestic operation, Gottstein will become the first Swiss citizen to run Credit Suisse in almost 20 years.

Of the spying scandal that rocked Switzerland’s financial center, Gottstein said the bank now intended to leave the insecurity evoked by the incident behind it, adding he looked forward to strengthening the bank’s culture.

“I don’t think we have a cultural problem. But there are a few things we’ve learned from this episode, there were some mistakes,” the 55-year old, who has spent 13 years of his career with UBS and Credit Suisse in London, said. “Observation should not be part of our toolkit.”

Gottstein will be holding discussions with executives as well as shareholders following the bank’s fourth-quarter results publication on Feb. 13, he said, adding there were no strategic changes under way.

“The biggest growth opportunities we see are in emerging markets, particularly in Asia and then in other emerging markets that our International Wealth Management is serving,” he said.

He also saw potential for the Zurich-based lender to win market share in its home base of Switzerland as well as in western Europe.

Asked about his long-term plans, Gottstein said, “I’m not looking at the clock. I want to be successful with my colleagues and the rest will fall into place.”

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Oliver Hirt; Editing by Michael Shields)