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Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Credit Suisse Appoints African CEO

Tidjane Thiam

(Photo : Reuters) Tidjane Thiam poses to a photographer after the Credit Suisse news conference in Zurich, March 10, 2015.

Credit Suisse, the seventh largest investment bank in the world, has appointed African Tidjane Thiam as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Thiam, who currently sits as group chief executive of UK insurer Prudential, will head Swiss bank Credit Suisse in June this year, replacing outgoing CEO Brady Dougan. 

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Thiam is described as an exceptional leader who rose quickly through the ranks. His appointment was seen as a remarkable event in the corporate world --- one of rare moments that an African lands at the top of a global business.

There are currently only five African American CEO's of Fortune 500 companies.

Thiam admits to being uncomfortable with the attention, given that he is the first black person to head a major European bank --- something that made him realize the reality behind racism.

"I avoid talking about it because I don't think it's very helpful. [The UK] has been a wonderfully welcoming place for me."  Thiam once said in an interview. "In every society, in every place, there are people who are not necessarily open minded and constructive."

In the early years of his career, Thiam had told a headhunter:  "I am happy to interview. But you need to tell them you found someone who's black, African, Francophone, and 6ft 4."

That statement landed him a job at the senior management level at British insurer Aviva. Six years later, he left to become the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Prudential in the UK in 2008. In less than a year, he became Prudential's CEO.

Prudential chairman Paul Manduca said Thiam steered the company through the financial crisis and concentrated on Asia's emerging markets. Prudential's shares rose to up to 150 percent, while full-year operating profits jumped 14 percent under his wings.

Thiam's departure from Prudential is seen as the company's loss. On Tuesday, Manduca released a statement saying they will be "sorry" to see Thiam go, but he added that they understand his decision and wish him success in Credit Suisse.

Meanwhile, outgoing CEO Dougan said he is happy with what his team had achieved in the his past 25 years working for the company. However, critics said he failed to move fast enough to take advantage of a growing multi-millionaires club in Asia.

The Swiss bank's fourth-quarter net profit, beat analysts' estimates. The company has also plans to cut costs to include slashing bonus payments to staff.

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