Credit Suisse: Khan to Remove Black Sheep

Iqbal Khan, Credit Suisse

Iqbal Khan, Credit Suisse

Iqbal Khan, head of wealth management at Credit Suisse, is facing a mammoth task: while his boss wants him to hire hundreds of new bankers to attract more assets and boost profit, he first has to root out those who haven't performed.

Surprising the augurs, Credit Suisse (CS) in October named Iqbal Khan head of the International Wealth Management unit. The son of a Pakistani father and a Swiss mother didn't enjoy much of a honeymoon since and has been exposed to a stiff breeze almost from day one.

The former consultant at EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) was only just put in charge when the market gave way, starting in China. Parts of the losses have since been recovered, but investors remain nervous and panic is never far away.

Fighting With Clients

Not the best of starts for someone who has to steer wealth management at Switzerland's second-biggest bank into calmer waters with sustainable profitability. A tough enough task as it is – and which has been exacerbated by the legal tussle with Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Georgian oligarch. He claims that his client adviser at the bank lost 100 million francs of his money speculating in the markets. And two Russian clients have since also started legal proceedings against the bank with claims of their own.

The business with customers from emerging markets is risky. Eastern Europe, Russia and African countries remain dogged by corruption, which proves a massive challenge for compliance at the banks doing business in those markets.

New Hires to Work the Emerging Markets

Khan claims he wants to get rid of the «black sheep» among his client advisers, the «Wall Street Journal» (pay-wall) recently said.

While having to get rid of some of his people, Khan received the budget to hire as many as 300 new client advisers over the coming three years. Most of them will be charged with business in the emerging markets, because CS receives most new money in those countries and thus compensates for the assets it looses in Europe in the process of implementing the white-money strategy.

A Born Tactician?

So far though, Khan's division is still leaking. The International Wealth Management unit of CS last year lost 4.2 billion francs in assets. Tidjane Thiam, the CEO and boss of Khan, has told him to triple pretax profit to 2.1 billion in new money in the years through 2018.

Khan seems to be unsure whether he will be able to meet the target – or perhaps he is shrewd enough to preempt the criticism if he fails to deliver: «We did not put into that target a stressed-market environment,» he told the «Wall Street Journal».

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