Wall Street’s under-the-radar CEO

June 26, 2008, 12:52 AM UTC

I saw Brady Dougan last evening. He’s the under-the-radar CEO of one of the financial world’s quietest giants, Credit Suisse Group . The company’s cocktail reception, hosted by Dougan at New York’s Chelsea Art Museum, was off the record, so I can’t tell you what we talked about. But I can tell you that this young chief sure seems to have grown into the big job. I spent time with Dougan five years ago in New York and Zurich when I was profiling John Mack, now CEO of Morgan Stanley but then co-CEO of Credit Suisse and the boss at CSFB, the investment bank. Dougan then was a “boyish” (that’s what I wrote in my 2003 notes) 43-year-old hotshot with a maniac work ethic. He told me he got up at 4:15 every morning and typically was in the office by 5:15 a.m.

The maniac work ethic paid off. Dougan, now 48, still keeps up the pace, say his colleagues. Though these days, he runs early in the morning—in Zurich, where he’s based, or near his Connecticut home, when he works out of Credit Suisse’s New York office. Viewed as green when he took the top job in in May 2007, Dougan has performed pretty well in a punishing environment. It sounds crazy to say that $8 billion in asset writedowns is good, but in fact it is compared to rivals like UBS , Citigroup , Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Since the start of 2007, those banks have taken bigger hits than Credit Suisse has. Among its major rivals, only Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have beat Credit Suisse in 12-month stock performance.

Of course, Dougan and his rivals are still wrestling with the downturn. But Credit Suisse has managed to pick up talent, particularly in private banking and investment banking. Rob Shafir, the CEO of asset management and the Americas, joined Credit Suisse from Lehman Brothers last year. Norman Mineta, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation, is newly on board advising clients in ever-hot infrastructure investments. And with blood in the streets, Dougan seems hungry to recruit more.

P.S. Also at last night’s Credit Suisse soiree: Norm Pearlstine. He’s the former editor in chief of Time Inc.—and once my boss’s boss. Pearlstine recently left Carlyle Group, the private equity firm, to go to Bloomberg in a new position, chief content officer. Ever since, I’ve wondered what he’s really up to—and what his arrival might mean for expansion-minded Bloomberg. I asked him. “So, Norm, did you go to Bloomberg as a deal guy or as an editor?” Pearlstine smiled and replied, “I have two desks.” In fact, he does—one next to Bloomberg editor in chief Matt Winkler and the other near the company’s president, Dan Doctoroff. Who knows what that setup signals?