Osama Abbasi to become new Asia-Pacific CEO at Credit Suisse

Abbasi, the current head of equities in the region, will take over from Kai Nargolwala who will stay with the bank as non-executive chairman.
Osama Abbasi
Osama Abbasi

Osama Abbasi will become the new Asia-Pacific CEO at Credit Suisse on October 1, taking over from Kai Nargolwala who will assume the role of non-executive chairman, the bank announced yesterday. Abbasi is currently head of equities in the region and, as such, has been at the forefront of the bank’s successful shift to a more client-focused strategy over the past couple of years. He has been with Credit Suisse since 1996 when he joined a former derivatives subsidiary in the US.

By comparison, Nargolwala joined Credit Suisse less than three years ago, in January 2008, after 10 years with Standard Chartered, and the fact that he is stepping down from the day-to-day running of the bank so soon does come as a bit of a surprise. However, his time at the Swiss bank has been heavily marked by the worst financial crisis in a century and, having worked hard both to steer the bank through that and to put in place a framework for its expansion in the region, the return of a more normal market environment may be the perfect time to hand over the helm to someone who can now make use of that framework to ensure the growth continues.

“Kai has done a tremendous job in defining and implementing the strategic agenda for expansion of the bank’s presence in Asia-Pacific and in managing the region through a very turbulent time for the industry. In his new role, Kai’s wise counsel and extensive Asia experience will benefit Credit Suisse greatly as we continue to develop our business in the region,” Hans-Ulrich Doerig, chairman of Credit Suisse Group, said in a written comment.

Nargolwala’s new role will entail providing counsel and guidance to the senior Credit Suisse management in the region, including Abbasi, with a focus on strategy and senior client relationships.

“Credit Suisse is on track to continue growing as a well capitalised, globally integrated bank,” added Brady Dougan, Credit Suisse CEO. “We are confident that these appointments in Asia-Pacific will help to further accelerate the implementation of our client-focused, capital-efficient strategy.”

Kai Nargolwala
Nargolwala took over as CEO in the region after Paul Calello, who relocated to New York in May 2007 to become CEO of Credit Suisse’s global investment banking division. The fact that the bank chose an outsider for the job surprised some observers at the time, although Credit Suisse received nods of approval for putting someone from Asia in charge in the region for the first time.

Nargolwala has more than 30 years of banking experience and in recognition of his contribution both to Credit Suisse and Asia’s finance landscape in general, he was included in FinanceAsia’s inaugural list of the 50 most influential people in Asia’s financial markets, which was published in November last year. He joined Standard Chartered Bank in 1998 and was appointed to the board of the emerging markets-focused bank in 1999. His responsibilities included corporate governance in Asia, global risk and special asset management. He also led the bank’s own M&A activities and its relationships with regulators and government officials.

Before joining Standard Chartered he spent 19 years with Bank of America in various senior management roles in Europe, the US and Asia, including group executive vice president and head of the Asia wholesale banking group, which was headquartered in Hong Kong.

When assuming his new role, Nargolwala will relocate from Hong Kong to Singapore, where he is a permanent resident.

Interestingly, the announcement of a new regional CEO at Credit Suisse came on a day that also saw global leadership changes at two other major banks. A pure coincidence no doubt, although it kind of sends a signal that at least two of the banks believe the financial crisis is now mainly behind us, making this a good time for a management reshuffle.

Barclays plc announced that John Varley will step down as group chief executive on March 31, 2011, and will be succeeded by Robert (Bob) Diamond, the current president and head of corporate and investment banking and of Barclays Wealth. Diamond, who has been with the bank for 14 years and became a member of the Barclays board in 2005, will transition into the new role from October 1, when he will become deputy group chief executive. Varley will stay on as a senior advisor to Diamond and the board on regulatory matters until the end of September next year.

Meanwhile, Stephen Green will step down as chairman of HSBC Holdings before the end of the year to become UK minister of state for trade and investment in January 2011 – a position that has been empty since Prime Minister David Cameron’s new government took power four months ago. The bank said it is on track to announce a successor to Green, who has been with HSBC for 28 years, before the end of the year.

At Credit Suisse, Abbasi will be charged with executing the bank’s strategy in Asia-Pacific and will be responsible for both divisional and country performance in the region. In addition to his role as regional CEO, he will also become a member of the executive board of Credit Suisse Group AG and Credit Suisse AG. He will report directly to Dougan.

In the announcement, Dougan noted Abbasi’s strong track record as one of the firm’s “most talented business leaders” and said he will “bring great energy and focus to his new role”. Indeed, anyone who has met Abbasi can testify to his ability to break down pretty much any issue into parts to make the picture clearer and allow for better focus on the key issues.

Abbasi relocated to Hong Kong from London in April 2008 to become head of global securities for non-Japan Asia and Australia – a new role that had him oversee all aspects of sales, structuring, trading and research for both equities and fixed income. Since then, Credit Suisse has again separated the oversight of the equities and fixed-income departments with Abbasi focusing on equities. Before his move to Asia, he was head of European securities structured derivatives and fixed-income sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He joined Credit Suisse from Bankers Trust where he held various trading and marketing positions in fixed-income and equities.

Abbasi’s current role as head of Asia-Pacific equities will be taken over by Ali Naqvi who is currently co-head of Asia-Pacific cash equities with responsibility for content (sales and research) and head of sales for non-Japan Asia across all equity products. His fellow co-head Olivier Thiriet, who is responsible for execution, will thus remain the sole head of cash equities in the region.

Naqvi has more than 17 years of experience both in the region and in equities. He joined the firm in 1998 as a research analyst focusing on the telecom sector. In addition to his new role, he will also join the global equities management committee and the Asia-Pacific operating committee. He will report functionally to Bob Jain and Tony Ehinger, who are co-heads of global securities, and regionally to Abbasi.


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