Credit Suisse international wealth CEO Iqbal Khan in surprise exit

Iqbal Khan is poised to take a post atop Julius Baer Group.
Iqbal Khan is poised to take a post atop Julius Baer Group.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Iqbal Khan left abruptly as head of Credit Suisse Group's international wealth-management unit, fanning speculation that he'll join a major competitor and dealing a blow to chief executive officer Tidjane Thiam's expansion plans.

Philipp Wehle, the wealth unit's chief financial officer, will take over with immediate effect, Credit Suisse said in a late night statement on Monday (July 1). The rising private banking star has been linked to a number of high-profile positions.

Khan, 43, is poised to take a post atop Julius Baer Group, the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger reported, citing unidentified people in the financial industry. Julius Baer hasn't made any statement on Khan's departure and a spokesman said the bank won't comment on speculation.

Competition between Switzerland's lenders for the best private bankers has intensified as Credit Suisse and larger rival UBS Group tilt toward managing money for the rich and away from riskier trading operations. Credit Suisse's international wealth-management unit is the second biggest contributor to profit and the centerpiece of CEO Tidjane Thiam 's growth plans. Khan had been viewed as as a potential successor to the UBS chief.

Khan's abrupt move mirrors that of Andrea Orcel, a star UBS investment banker who left the lender in September in a bid to become chief executive officer of Banco Santander. That offer was later rescinded in a dispute over pay. Bank executives who join a competitor typically have to forgo deferred bonus payments as Orcel did. That means that any bank that hires Kahn may have to millions of francs buy him out.

If Kahn he goes to Julius Baer, he would reunite with Romeo Lacher, a former Credit Suisse banker who became chairman of the smaller firm in April. The pair once worked closely together, and Khan has been on a shortlist of candidates to potentially replace the firm's CEO, Bernhard Hodler, people familiar with the matter said in May.

'WISH HIM WELL'

There's been speculation for months that Khan might leave Credit Suisse to advance his career elsewhere. In announcing the departure, Thiam praised the executive's leadership and Kahn thanked the firm for the opportunities it provided, without indicating where he may go next.

"Under his leadership, IWM has delivered strong financial results, while enhancing our client franchise and achieving industry leading growth over the period," Thiam said. "I thank Iqbal for the strong results he delivered during his time leading IWM and wish him well."

Wehle, 45 joined Credit Suisse in 2005 and has served as the unit's finance chief since its inception in 2015. He previously held finance and strategy senior management roles in Credit Suisse's Swiss business and international private-banking divisions.

He "is an excellent addition to our senior leadership team, reinforcing the team's performance culture with strong personal values," Thiam, 56, said in the statement. "Philipp is an outstanding leader and manager, with an impeccable track record of generating strong revenue growth while driving cost and capital discipline."

Khan joined the Swiss bank in 2013 from Ernst & Young and was named head of the bank's international wealth-management unit when it was created. He has a degree in international business law from the University of Zurich.

Credit Suisse had split its key international private-banking unit into several new regions last year to boost local decision-making in the hunt for new business. It already has separate Asian and Swiss wealth units, with the combined entities contributing about 40 per cent of revenue.