Europe’s Bank-Boss Swapping Restarts With Mustier in Play
(Bloomberg) -- The pandemic slowed the game of musical chairs among Europe’s bank bosses. As 2020 draws to a close, the biggest lenders have abruptly resumed swapping talent at the top.
Antonio Horta-Osorio said he was leaving the helm of Lloyds Banking Group Plc and moving to the chairman’s role at Credit Suisse Group AG. Lloyds poached his replacement from HSBC Holdings Plc.
Meanwhile, Jean Pierre Mustier said he was departing as UniCredit SpA’s chief executive officer -- destination unknown. Mustier’s departure followed a clash with the Italian establishment, but elsewhere in Europe, generational turnover is possible at banks with long-standing senior executives.
Standard Chartered Plc CEO Bill Winters and Barclays Plc CEO Jes Staley have been in their roles for five years. A search was said to be under way last year at France’s Societe Generale SA for a successor to Frederic Oudea, the longest-serving leader of a major European bank.
Earlier in the year, UBS Group AG poached ING Groep NV’s CEO and Mustier emerged as a key external contender for HSBC’s top job before pulling out of the race. Credit Suisse spectacularly ousted Tidjane Thiam after a spying scandal, and Natixis SA parted ways with Francois Riahi after a series of trading losses, though both of those banks replaced their CEOs with internal reshuffles.
So far, the changes have done little to alter the preponderance of white men atop Europe’s banks and the likely candidates for future roles are similarly undiverse. It is a similar story in the U.S., although Jane Fraser shattered the financial industry’s ultimate glass ceiling when she was named the next CEO of Citigroup Inc. earlier this year.
Here are the recent shifts in leadership across European banks.
The 56-year-old Portuguese native had run Lloyds for almost a decade, presiding over a return to profitability after the financial crisis, a push into wealth management and repeated public opprobrium over his lavish pay package. His departure from Britain’s largest mortgage lender was well-flagged, but both his new destination and his successor at Lloyds were a surprise.
At Credit Suisse, his appointment caps a year of sweeping change. Horta-Osorio, a former executive at Spain’s Banco Santander SA, will bring an international flavor back to the top of the Swiss bank after the departure of Thiam, an Ivorian educated in France who had worked in London. Current CEO Thomas Gottstein and outgoing Chairman Urs Rohner are both Swiss.
Horta-Osorio’s replacement at Lloyds is Charlie Nunn, 49, who heads wealth and personal banking at HSBC. Lloyds had previously tapped former investment banker Robin Budenberg as its new chairman in July.
Nunn held a series of senior posts at the emerging market-focused bank after joining from consulting firm McKinsey, where he was a senior partner. He quickly became a key lieutenant of former HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver, working on the bank’s repeated series of overhauls while surviving a management cull that claimed HSBC’s senior investment bankers and ex-CEO John Flint.
His appointment at Lloyds was unexpected. In his old job, Nunn hadn’t been among the HSBC executives flagged in the bank’s long search for Flint’s replacement.
Jean Pierre Mustier
Mustier, 59, will leave Milan-based UniCredit in April or earlier after clashing with his board over merger strategy. The Frenchman is departing in an environment where Italy’s government is pressing UniCredit to take over a national problem child: Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, which was nationalized more than three years ago.
Mustier has been linked with bank-merger speculation before, but with a more international dimension. In 2018, newspaper reports said UniCredit was considering a tie-up with Mustier’s old employer -- Societe Generale.
He has spent four years running UniCredit and is widely recognized for a successful turnaround given Italy’s challenging business environment. A potential successor is likely to be Italian. Candidates include Victor Massiah, former CEO of UBI Banca SpA, Bernardo Mingrone, chief financial officer of Nexi SpA, Francesco Canzonieri of Mediobanca, Fabio Gallia of Fincantieri SpA, and Roberto Nicastro, a former UniCredit executive, people familiar with the matter have said.
If Mustier wants to return to France, there could be a job vacancy atop his old employer. People familiar with the matter have said SocGen started a formal search in 2019 to replace Oudea when his term ends in 2023, though a change could come before that. Under pressure from his board, Oudea is cutting trading risk after the bank’s worst quarter since rogue trader Jerome Kerviel’s record loss more than 12 years ago.
Mustier came close to taking the HSBC job but pulled out of the race in February, to the relief of UniCredit investors at the time. That job probably won’t come up again, though HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker has a track record of firing a CEO quickly when a turnaround stalls. As the pandemic erupted, Tucker opted to stick with interim CEO Noel Quinn, installing him in the role on a permanent basis for yet another revamp of the bank.
Standard Chartered said in September that Winters wasn’t leaving as CEO soon after reports early this year that Chairman Jose Vinals was informally sounding out potential replacements.
Barclays has also denied Staley will be on the move, with the CEO himself saying he plans to stick around for a couple more years. Speculation of a successor has focused on the two men Staley recently promoted: Paul Compton and C.S. Venkatakrishnan.
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