The financial services industry has been rocked by the crunch of faltering credit markets, massive layoffs and incidents where risk-management controls failed and traders lost billions for their companies. Not to mention the ominous threats from macroeconomic trends-a looming recession, depressed corporate earnings, all-time-high oil prices and a slumping real estate market.
Such was the daunting backdrop as Tom Sanzone quietly left his CIO role at Credit Suisse in late February and moved just down the street to competitor Merrill Lynch. When he starts in the second half of 2008, Sanzone's new title will be EVP and chief administrative officer, and he will report to Chairman and CEO John Thain. The title has been used before at Merrill Lynch, but never quite like this, says spokeswoman Selena Morris.
The 47-year-old Sanzone will be responsible for global client services and operations; technology applications development and infrastructure; business process and sourcing strategies; information security; and global real estate, purchasing and services. "This is the top technology role at Merrill Lynch," Morris says.
Both Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse have had their share of internal and external economic angst during the past several months. Merrill Lynch posted an unprecedented fourth-quarter loss of $9.8 billion ($4.8 billion) that led to a loss of $7.8 billion for the fiscal year. (In contrast, Merrill posted $7.5 billion in profits in 2006.)
Credit Suisse fared better than Merrill did last fiscal year, but an unexpected write-down of $2.8 billion that the company reported on Feb. 19 left CEO Brady Dougan to explain what had happened. Dougan stated that an internal review had identified "mismarkings and pricing errors by a small number of traders in certain positions" in Credit Suisse's structured credit trading business.
Fresh on everyone's minds was the French bank Societe Generale's disclosure on 24 January that one of its traders, Jerome Kerviel, had manipulated and evaded the bank's IT controls and had lost more than $7 billion in unauthorised bets. That mug-shot-like photo of Kerviel became the symbol of banks that were under economic siege and lacking robust risk-management controls. (For more on the French bank's nightmare, see "Lessons from Societe Generale's Financial Fiasco.")
There was no such "face" at Credit Suisse, though the Financial Times reported that Kareem Serageldin, Credit Suisse's recently appointed global head of collateralised debt obligations, was among those employees suspended after the internal review.
"Even with today's announcement we feel we have actually managed our risk fairly well,' CEO Dougan said on the Feb. 19 conference call. "We will always continue to focus on improving our risk-management practices and procedures...and that's what we need to do, clearly."
Sanzone's Final Days at Credit Suisse
On 29 February, Credit Suisse announced in a brief press release that Karl Landert, the former head of IT private banking, had been appointed the new chief information officer. Sanzone, according to the release, had "decided to pursue an opportunity outside the bank."
And that was that. No mention was made of Sanzone's three-year tenure or his 10,000-strong IT team's contributions to the bank, such as the massive "One Bank" integration project, leading-edge virtualisation work or the bank's Advanced Execution Services automated trading system (for which the company won a CIO 100 award in 2007).