Ryan exits CSFB

It’s a wonder that Phil Ryan survived his five years as CFO of Credit Suisse.

It’s a wonder that Phil Ryan survived his five years as CFO of Credit Suisse. For starters, since 2003 he has had to accommodate ambitious co-CEOs -- one in Zurich, the other in New York -- while trying to stay on top of the financial affairs of a $21 billion business operating in 50 countries. To that brief, add the $12 billion acquisition of U.S. investment bank DLJ at the height of the tech bubble and a staggering $2.43 billion loss in 2002 that led to the ouster of Ryan’s then-boss, Credit Suisse chairman and CEO Lukas Mühlemann.

Ryan, 47, who announced last month that he would be leaving Credit Suisse in August, is given much of the credit for restoring investors’ trust in the bank following the earnings debacle. He shored up the balance sheet by cutting costs and selling off businesses, and not once did this veteran investment banker resort to a capital increase. “It was ugly for a while, but everything we said would happen has happened,” says Ryan. The bank earned an adjusted $4 billion or so in 2003. Credit Suisse would like to persuade Ryan to stay on in some capacity; he hasn’t said what he plans to do after leaving.

A Midwesterner with an aw-shucks manner, Ryan was promoted to group CFO by Mühlemann after 20 years with Credit Suisse First Boston. His influence, however, waned after co-CEOs John Mack, who runs CSFB out of New York, and Oswald Grübel, who heads Credit Suisse Financial Services out of Zurich, appointed their own CFOs and put them on the group’s executive board alongside Ryan.

Then the bank announced on March 26 that because of an accounting blunder at an insurance affiliate, it had overstated its 2003 profits by Sf200 million ($156 million). Ryan, admired for his communication skills, had to step in to reassure the markets.

Moving into Ryan’s seat is Renato Fassbind, 49, the controversial former CFO of ABB. He was a member of the management team running the Swiss-Swedish engineering firm in 2002 when it was forced to do an emergency rights issue to stave off collapsing under a mountain of high-yield short-term notes.