Estonia Central Banker Picked to Take Over ECB Seat From Hansson


(Bloomberg) -- Estonian central bank Deputy Governor Madis Muller was named to replace chief Ardo Hansson as the Baltic nation’s voting member on the European Central Bank’s Governing Council.

Muller was backed by the Estonian central bank’s eight-person supervisory board over Swedbank AB’s Estonian unit head Robert Kitt and senior Finance Ministry official Marten Ross, according to an emailed statement. He must now pass a background check and be approved by President Kersti Kaljulaid for a seven-year term starting mid-year.

Hansson’s successor will step in as the country is dealing with the fallout of a $235 billion dirty-money scandal that has engulfed the local branch of Copenhagen-based Danske Bank A/S. Hansson, as well as Prime Minister Juri Ratas, have praised the financial supervisor for its role in ending the non-resident business at the branch in 2015, even as banking watchdogs in Denmark and Estonia have fallen out in past weeks over each others’ responsibilities in handling the issue.

Muller will join the ECB Governing Council at a crucial point in time. Policy makers have embarked on a gradual exit from unconventional stimulus, yet signs are increasing that the 19-nation euro area is facing a more protracted slowdown.

“Decisions have to be taken based on the information that we have about the economic situation at that point,” he said. “Always when you have a long-term policy that is very accommodative, there are some contingent risks. We’re at an exit stage, so it’s important that the euro area does it skillfully.”

The Estonian will be one of many new faces on the ECB’s Governing Council this year.

Slovenia’s Bostjan Vasle and Belgium’s Pierre Wunsch joined the group in January, and Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir will start as governor in due course. Chrystalla Georghadji’s term in Cyprus is expiring in April and Philip Lane will make way for a new Irish official when he joins the ECB in June. Austria’s Robert Holzmann will start in September, before President Mario Draghi and Executive Board member Benoit Coeure finish their tenures toward the end of the year.

Muller, 42, has a finance degree from George Washington University, and held jobs at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation before becoming deputy central bank governor in 2011.

The Chicago-born and Harvard-educated Hansson, considered a relatively hawkish member of the Governing Council, can’t be re-elected when his term ends on June 6.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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