Wheeler called it an "innovative" appointment, especially given his geographic knowledge. He added that Thiam "understands Asia" and would be able to promote the savings and wealth management operations of Credit Suisse into these markets.
Outgoing CEO Brady Dougan said he had "tremendous respect" for his successor, in a press release alongside the announcement. Prudential shares slipped around 3 percent at the session opened Tuesday, but analysts weren't ringing the death knell for the insurance company, which has seen its shares rise around 150 percent during Thiam's tenure.
"The Prudential organization is large and driven by relatively autonomous units in the U.K., U.S. and Asia and hence while Thiam was instrumental to the healthy development of Prudential in the last few years, we view his departure as Neutral to the credit risk profile of Prudential," Rafael Villarreal, a credit specialist at BNP Paribas, said in a research note Tuesday.
It hasn't all been plain sailing for Thiam at Prudential, however. He made his name pushing through large deals while at the helm of the company, but a plan to buy Asian insurer AIA from the U.S. insurance giant American International Group (AIG) proved a step too far.
AIG had to be bailed out by the U.S. government following the 2008 financial crisis. Thiam saw an opportunity to buy some of its assets but negotiations on the price of the deal ended in failure in June, 2010. The Financial Times even reported at the time that the disappointment piled pressure on Thiam to resign as Prudential CEO.
Thiam, who is married with two adult children and speaks English, French, and German, is a dual citizen of France and the Ivory Coast.