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Credit Suisse Names De Ferrari as Wealth Head in Shake-Up

Credit Suisse also appointed investment bank chief Christian Meissner to run the Americas.

(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG named Francesco De Ferrari to head its global wealth business and appointed new heads for the Americas and Switzerland, as the bank reorganizes after one of its most difficult years since the financial crisis.

De Ferrari will join the Executive Board effective Jan. 1 and report to group Chief Executive Officer Thomas Gottstein. He’s also taking over as head of the EMEA region on an interim basis, while Credit Suisse appointed investment bank chief Christian Meissner to run the Americas and Swiss bank head Andre Helfenstein to oversee the domestic market.

Chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio is seeking to regain the initiative on his restructuring of the lender after his strategy review met with a muted reaction and he courted controversy with an admission that he broke quarantine rules in Switzerland. The bank last month said it will exit from the hedge fund business at the heart of the Archegos Capital Management scandal and shift more resources to wealth management to draw a line under a tumultuous year.

In appointing De Ferrari to run the wealth business, Credit Suisse is turning to an executive who comes with baggage of his own after a shortened tenure as CEO of AMP Ltd. He left the Australian wealth manager in June after shareholder discontent over his and the board’s handling of a takeover offer and the promotion of a manager tainted by sexual harassment allegations. 

The Swiss bank delayed the announcement of his appointment as head of its unified global wealth unit in early November to run additional checks on his tenure at AMP, people familiar with the discussions have said.

Credit Suisse Close to Naming De Ferrari Head of Wealth Unit 

De Ferrari “joins with an impressive track record and a profound knowledge of Credit Suisse and the industry, reinforcing our executive board at this critical junction in our journey,” Horta-Osorio said a statement Monday.

Philipp Wehle, who oversaw the international wealth unit, will become chief financial officer of the new, global wealth business, which is being created as part of an effort to simplify the bank’s structure into four main divisions. Lydie Hudson, the former head of compliance who most recently oversaw sustainability, research and investment solutions, will leave.

Helman Sitohang will remain in charge of Asia-Pacific, Credit Suisse said. Ex-UBS executive Ulrich Koerner already joined in April to oversee asset management. David Wildermuth, the former deputy chief risk officer at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will join in January, a month earlier than planned.

“Risk management will be at the core of all our actions, with the board of directors and the executive board together driving a culture that reinforces the importance of accountability and responsibility,” Horta-Osorio said.

The board of directors will be changed over time to include no more than 12 members, Credit Suisse also announced Monday.

De Ferrari oversaw a tumultuous two-year period while in charge at AMP, marked by a 60% decline in the share price, a botched deal with Ares Management and a shareholder backlash over its handling of sexual harassment claims. There was also litigation related to alleged misleading of regulators over charging customer fees for services they didn’t receive. 

He joined AMP in 2018 with a mission to repair the scandal-plagued 172-year-old company but failed to fully put in place a turnaround strategy, with some of his changes now being reversed by the new CEO. He left AMP under a cloud as talks with Ares eroded and shareholders clamored for the bank to spin off its investment manager AMP Capital to cut costs, the Australian Financial Review reported in March. 

In 2020, he also had a run-in with Credit Suisse’s largest shareholder Harris Associates, which is also the largest shareholder of AMP. The U.S. fund manager was upset at the board of directors and De Ferrari’s promotion of a manager to the executive board despite a sexual harassment sanction two years prior, according to AFR.

De Ferrari forfeited an exit bonus of AUS$ 1.6 million, but was refunded AUS$200,000 of his relocation costs from Singapore, the publication reported. 

Prior to AMP, De Ferrari spent 16 years as a private banker at Credit Suisse, including seven years as its CEO for private banking in Asia Pacific. When he left the bank appointed two of his lieutenants to run the region Benjamin Cavalli and Francois Monnet. Last month, Cavalli was appointed the sole CEO of the region as Monnet plans to retire at the end of the year. 

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