Blocked by your boss? Look at Iqbal Khan

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Iqbal Khan is not a trader, but he probably could be. Less than two months ago, he took a massive gamble. Today, that paid off. 

This morning, UBS announced that Khan is joining as co-president of wealth management, working alongside Tom Naratil. It's a coup for UBS and it's a coup for Khan. Khan's former boss, Tidjane Thiam at Credit Suisse, undoubtedly has more mixed feelings about the matter.

It's not clear that Khan knew he was destined for a big role at UBS when he dumped Thiam and Credit Suisse in July, but it seems unlikely. At the time, Bloomberg said Khan was jobless and 'reviewing offers.' However, Khan had certainly been in contact with UBS, which had a hole to fill that was left by Juerg Zeltner, its former president of wealth management who stepped down in 2017. Khan's 'informal discussions' with the rival Swiss bank caused tension with Thiam, who was annoyed at his lieutenant's lack of loyalty.

Ultimately, though, 43-year-old Khan left Credit Suisse because Thiam was blocking his own ascension. After increasing profits 80% in two years as head of Credit Suisse's International Wealth Management business, Khan is said to have had his eye on Thiam's role as CEO. But - despite allegedly coveting the top role at the IMF - 56-year-old Thiam was going nowhere. And as a notoriously 'forceful and intimidating' person, Thiam is not a boss to annoy if you want a pleasant job. So, Khan did the next best thing by annoying Thiam intensely, and then annoying him even more by resigning his command. At UBS, Khan will now be going up against Philipp Wehle, Thiam's 'safe' choice as Khan's replacement at Credit Suisse.

Not everyone who leaves a big banking role after a dispute with a boss has a soft landing. Jes Staley at Barclays and Bill Winters at Standard Chartered fell foul of Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan. Both men are now running major international banks of their very own, but neither is earning nearly as much as Jamie and both arguably have more difficult jobs. Others, like Christian Meissner, have disappeared from view altogether.

Nor is Khan necessarily in a bed of roses at UBS. While he ran International Wealth Management single-handedly at Credit Suisse, he'll be co-president at UBS. His joint-chief, Tom Naratil, will need to be a tolerant type. Khan is deeply charming and deeply ambitious and may not want to share the glory for long.

Photo by Jackson Jost on Unsplash

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