Credit Suisse CEO Shrugs Off Trade War as Client Activity Dips
(Bloomberg) -- Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam said client activity dropped in the past two months but signaled optimism that his bank and the global economy will withstand escalating trade tensions and deepening woes in emerging markets.
“What you see lately is less activity, less transaction, definitely lower volume,” Thiam said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Beijing on Friday. “Yes there is a tension on trade, but it is relatively contained.”
Thiam, 56, spoke after Bloomberg reported U.S. President Donald Trump wants to move ahead with a plan to impose tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports as soon as next week. Emerging-market assets are heading for a monthly loss after currency crises in Turkey and Argentina fueled fears of global contagion, a scenario that Thiam rejected.
“Well-managed economies are safe,” Thiam said. Economies with a current-account surplus, sound fiscal management and sufficient foreign reserves are in a good position, regardless of whether they are emerging or not, he said.
While foreign direct investment has remained stable, since July people have been growing more cautious about tactical investment decisions and there has been some deleveraging as yield curves steepen, Thiam said. That has also provided opportunities for the bank to offer hedged products, he added.
“So we continue to have very good levels of activity, we just do different things,” Thiam said. “That’s why you want a broad platform, because what makes you successful at different points in the cycle is different.” At the early phase, everyone wants to grow and invest, while later they become more interested in wealth preservation, he said.
Under Thiam, Zurich-based Credit Suisse has undergone a three-year overhaul to focus more on wealth management and scale back volatile trading operations. Revenue and profit rose in the second quarter as the wealth business did better than expected, helping to make up for disappointing results in trading.
Argentina’s peso plunged to a record low on Thursday, prompting policy makers to boost a benchmark interest rate to 60 percent. In Turkey, the lira has tumbled more than 40 percent this year as inflation soars and the current-account deficit deepens.
“It’s clear that Argentina has some real challenges to deal with,” Thiam said. “But to extend that to all emerging economies is too simple.” On Turkey, he said he doesn’t believe there will be “material contagion over time” and the impact of the nation’s financial crisis on European banks “is manageable.”
Thiam declined to be drawn on the U.S.’s future role in the World Trade Organization after Trump said in a Bloomberg interview that he would pull out of the group if it doesn’t treat the U.S. better. The WTO has been a “force for good” on trade and it’s “not helpful” to speculate on the U.S.’s status, the CEO said.
The main risk is to sentiment, Thiam said, adding that he believes in global commerce and remains positive that issues will be resolved.
“In the long term, the trends that promote trade are very real and not stoppable,” he said.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.