Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam has said that a defensive approach in 2019 looks the most beneficial to deal with the unknown quantities that the world is experiencing.

Speaking on Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thiam spoke of the benefits of having a strong capital base and low revenue in navigating such uncertain waters as Brexit and the US-China trade war.

“Any forecast is very tricky to make, this is why we’ve taken a very cautious stance. Low cost, low risk, flexibility – so we can pick up on any upside should a trade agreement be reached between China and the US.

“We’ll be ready to benefit from that, but with a strong capital base, a rebuilt balance sheet, we can also deal with a downturn.”

Thiam admitted that Q4 of 2018 was trying for Credit Suisse with market volatility hitting wealth management, but saw this as gratifying of the work done under his stewardship.

“It vindicates everything we’ve been doing [for] three years.”

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Since Thiam joined Credit Suisse in 2015, the bank has undergone a restructuring process with hundreds of jobs axed and a strategy focused primarily on wealth management of ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

Thiam spoke also of the share buyback programme, launched earlier this month calling it a “vote of confidence” in the bank by regulators. “It means that we’ve dealt with our major legacy issues, and there’s no big cloud hanging over Credit Suisse.”

Asked what will be the biggest risk in 2019, Thiam said, “I’m afraid to say it’s politics.

“Running a country has become a more challenging job than ever before. There has been a lot of thinking on how business will be disrupted by technology. I am not certain that there has been the same level thinking about politics.

“Political uncertainty doesn’t make our jobs as business leaders easier. This is when having a strong balance sheet and having the capital to support clients is crucial.”