Credit Suisse has appointed António Horta-Osório as its next chairman, picking the outgoing chief executive of Lloyds Bank to help steer the lender through the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Horta-Osório will start at Credit Suisse at the end of April, the bank said on Tuesday.
The Swiss lender had been looking for a new chairman after Urs Rohner, who has been in the post for nearly 12 years, privately sounded out shareholders about staying for another term but ended up leading the search process for his successor.
The Portuguese banker was discussed as a candidate from the beginning of the process, according to a senior figure at Credit Suisse, despite his lack of experience in wealth management and investment banking, in which the lender specialises.
“In a way, not having those backgrounds is helpful considering the history of CS,” the person said. “That is where some of the troubles have been and he can look with clear eyes.
“He will have to build the focus on Asia, sort out the investment banking strategy, work out what to do with asset management and put spying behind us. He will be chairman of a big global banking machine.”
Among the five other serious candidates for the chairman’s role was Jean Pierre Mustier, who resigned from UniCredit on Monday night after a clash with his board over M&A, according to another person familiar with the process.
It has been a turbulent year for Credit Suisse. Former chief executive Tidjane Thiam was forced out of the lender in February in the wake of an embarrassing corporate spying scandal at the group.
The appointment comes just four months after Credit Suisse launched a restructuring plan under new chief executive Thomas Gottstein, who replaced Mr Thiam. The changes are designed to cut costs and are expected to save SFr400m a year by 2022.
Credit Suisse said in October it would renew dividend payments and launch a share buyback scheme. Shareholders voted in favour of the plan last week. Mr Gottstein said that the bank had “proven the strength of our diversified business”.
Alongside the appointment of Mr Horta-Osório, Credit Suisse said on Tuesday that it was facing $680m in potential losses from a civil suit in the US because of residential mortgage-backed securities issued in 2007. It has already taken a $300m provision and said it had strong grounds for appeal.
“Antonio learned a lot at Lloyds and will be able to help Thomas and the management team as a good mentor and leader,” said David Herro, vice-chairman of Harris Associates, a $90bn asset manager that is the largest shareholder in Credit Suisse and owns a top five stake in Lloyds.
“There have been a lot of meaningful incidents recently, the focus should be on preventing these things happening again. This is one of my major issues, how did all this happen?” he added. “We have to make sure Credit Suisse is an organisation that is sensitive to misconduct charges.”
The announcement of Mr Horta-Osório as chairman comes a day after Lloyds said it had chosen HSBC’s Charlie Nunn as its next chief executive. This year, Lloyds had said that Mr Horta-Osório would leave the UK bank in 2021.
The 56-year-old has led Lloyds since 2011, steering the bank through the aftermath of the financial crisis, returning it to profitability and the private sector after it was bailed out by the government in 2008.
Mr Horta-Osório has a “good reputation in the market”, analysts at Vontobel noted, pointing out that his background is “primarily related to retail and commercial” banking.
One potential candidate mentioned frequently in the Swiss press was Philipp Hildebrand, former head of the Swiss central bank and now vice-chairman at BlackRock. But people briefed on the process said he was not considered a frontrunner.
Lloyds said on Monday that Mr Horta-Osório would step down at the end of April and that chief financial officer William Chalmers would temporarily take on the role of chief executive if Mr Nunn had not joined by then.
Mr Horta-Osório will become the first non-Swiss national chairman in Credit Suisse’s history, and will move to Switzerland. Though he does not speak German, he is fluent in French and Italian, Switzerland’s two other primary languages.
Get alerts on Credit Suisse Group AG when a new story is published