Credit Suisse has named Robert C. O'Brien, a managing director at its CS First Boston investment banking affiliate, as chief executive for the North American region.

The appointment, which takes effect March 1, signals that the Swiss banking company has committed to the American market, and that it has moved beyond an embezzlement scandal involving the original candidate for the position.

Peter Nardin, the former deputy regional head of commercial banking for Credit Suisse, was to take the job Jan. 1. He abruptly resigned in mid- December, and was later charged with embezzling $331,100 from the bank.

The 52-year-old Mr. O'Brien will leave his post as head of leveraged finance at the investment bank to take the job formerly held by Christopher Roberts, now the head of Credit Suisse's commercial banking operations in the United States, Canada, and Latin America.

Mr. O'Brien, who worked at Bankers Trust and Chemical during his 27-year career, hopes to build on his experience of the last year and a half at CS First Boston to enhance the relationship between the commercial and investment banking divisions of CS Holding.

"The success of joint marketing in leveraged finance highlights the wide range of opportunities available from the combination of two enormously powerful individual organizations," Mr. O'Brien said.

Mr. O'Brien will report to Mr. Roberts, who is the first American promoted to the 12-member executive board of Credit Suisse.

The elevated profile of a North American banker at the 140-year-old, Zurich-based bank underscores the increasing importance and prominence of the North American operation to the company's strategy.

"Zurich has specifically identified this market as a significant overall part of the business," Mr. O'Brien said. "That Chris Roberts was elected is a strong statement of their commitment to the market."

Industry watchers described Mr. O'Brien as a "top-notch banker," and said that his rise at Credit Suisse underscores the growing credibility and prominence of foreign banks in attracting high-level corporate banking talent.

"Mr. O'Brien's move to CS First Boston raised a lot of eyebrows," said T. Lee Pomeroy, an consultant in the executive search firm Egon Zehnder International. "His move within the Credit Suisse organization now says he's found a home, and he creates a very attractive link" between the commercial and investment banking arms.

Head hunters said that in the past several years, foreign banks have gone after and landed prominent American banking executives.

"In 1985, it was felt once you moved over to the foreign banks, you couldn't reenter the American banking market," said Tony Lord, a managing director with Ward Howell International Inc.

"That has totally changed, particularly in the last two or three years," Mr. Lord said.

"The fact that someone is with a foreign bank doesn't preclude them from moving to American commercial and investment banks."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.