NEW YORK • Mr Iqbal Khan's sudden departure as head of Credit Suisse Group's international wealth management unit has fanned speculation that he is joining a major competitor, dealing a blow to chief executive officer Tidjane Thiam's expansion plans.
Mr Philipp Wehle, 45, the wealth unit's chief financial officer, will take over with immediate effect, Credit Suisse said in a statement late on Monday. The rising private banking star has been linked to a number of high-profile positions.
The 43-year-old Mr Khan is set to take a top position at Julius Baer Group, the Swiss daily Tages-Anzeiger reported, citing unidentified people in the financial industry. Julius Baer has not made any statement on Mr Khan's departure.
Competition between Switzerland's lenders for the best private bankers has intensified as Credit Suisse and its larger rival UBS Group tilt towards 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 centrepiece of CEO Thiam's growth plans.
Mr Khan's abrupt move mirrors that of Mr Andrea Orcel, a star UBS investment banker who left the lender in September in an attempt to become chief executive officer of Banco Santander. That offer was later rescinded in a dispute over pay. Senior bank executives who join a competitor typically have to give up deferred bonus payments, which Mr Orcel did. That means that any bank that hires Mr Khan may have to fork out millions of francs to buy him out.
If Mr Khan goes to Julius Baer, he would reunite with former Credit Suisse banker Romeo Lacher, who became chairman of the smaller firm in April. The pair once worked closely together, and Mr 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.
There has been speculation for months that Mr Khan might leave Credit Suisse to advance his career elsewhere. In announcing the departure, Mr Thiam praised the executive's leadership, while Mr Khan thanked the firm for the opportunities it provided, without indicating where he may go next.
"Under Mr Khan's leadership, IWM (international wealth management) has delivered strong financial results, while enhancing our client franchise and achieving industry leading growth over the period," Mr Thiam said.
"I thank Iqbal for the strong results he delivered during his time leading IWM and wish him well."
Mr Wehle 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", Mr 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."
Mr 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.