Tidjane Thiam-Prudential-CreditSuisse-Brady Dougan
Prudential Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam speaks at the Institute of Directors annual convention in London, Sept. 18, 2013. Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

(Reuters) - Credit Suisse said it had hired Prudential head Tidjane Thiam as the first African to lead a global investment bank, with the job of reviving a company reeling from U.S. penalties and under increasing regulatory scrutiny.

Credit Suisse Chairman Urs Rohner said long-standing boss Brady Dougan was stepping down as chief executive of the Swiss bank at the end of June and would be replaced by Thiam, a former Ivory Coast government minister who has led the global insurance group since 2009.

"With Tidjane Thiam, a strong and distinguished leader with an impressive track record in the global financial services industry will take the helm of our bank," Rohner said in a statement.

Rohner said Thiam's international experience, particularly in wealth and asset management and developing new markets, laid the foundation for his appointment, which was reported overnight by various outlets including Reuters.

Dougan has faced calls to quit since last year when Credit Suisse reached a $2.5 billion settlement with U.S. authorities for helping Americans evade taxes via secret bank accounts. The American is leaving after 25 years at Credit Suisse, eight of those as CEO.

"Now is the right time for the organization and for me to transition out of the CEO role," Dougan said in a statement, adding he had "tremendous respect" for his replacement.

Despite failing to overcome a shareholder rebellion when attempting to take over Asia-focused insurer AIA in 2010, French-speaking Thiam has brought value to Prudential's investors by focusing on Asia as a key driver of profit.

"Tidjane will have a broader view," Sally Yim, vice president at Moody's Investors Service, said before Credit Suisse made the announcement.

"Credit Suisse has had different issues throughout the years and someone with a diverse background could look at its strategy with a fresh pair of eyes."

Prudential, Britain's largest insurer by market value, confirmed Thiam's departure as it reported a 14 percent rise in operating profit in 2014.

The firm said it had already assessed a number of external and internal candidates to replace Thiam, who is expected to remain in place until after the company reports its first quarter figures in May.

A successor has been identified and would be announced after the regulatory approval process, the company said.

Prudential shares were suspended from trading in Hong Kong ahead of the announcement. The stock has risen 200 percent in London under Thiam's watch, outperforming the 36 percent gain in the FTSE index.

"Credit Suisse needs a safe pair of hands to re-tool the business in an investor friendly way," a Hong Kong-based investment banker who worked closely with Thiam said before the announcement. "That means they will re-focus more on Asia."

He said private banking and asset management could be areas the bank would want to explore further in Asia.


Dougan is one of only three global bank CEOs still in the job following the financial crisis, alongside JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs.

The bank's board backed him over the deal with U.S. regulators -- under which Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to criminal charges but kept its New York license and its legally protected client data -- but he was criticized by some politicians and media in Switzerland.

The Illinois native, who became CEO in 2007, was also criticized for sticking with an investment banking strategy at a time when that business was falling out of favor.

Cross-town Zurich rival UBS made a high-profile withdrawal from investment banking, regarded by many in Switzerland as too risky following the financial crisis.

Recent troubles aside, Dougan generally has been a well-regarded outsider in the Swiss banking community.

He won plaudits from investors for steering Switzerland's second-largest bank through the post-Lehman Brothers turmoil, cutting riskier trading activities and avoiding getting entangled in U.S. subprime mortgages to the same degree as UBS, which took a state bailout in 2008.

One of the best-paid bankers in the world with an annual salary topping 90 million Swiss francs ($91 million) five years ago, he recently saw a pay cut as part of cost-cutting measures taken by the bank to tackle the surge in the Swiss franc.