(Bloomberg) -- With the departure of Ralph Hamers, ING Groep NV is losing a chief executive officer who drove the Dutch bank’s transformation into a technologically savvy European lender, but who also attracted criticism for what was seen as the lender’s lax money laundering controls.
Hamers is leaving in June to head UBS Group AG. Attracting a replacement from outside ING may be a challenge, given the comparatively low pay and the Dutch public’s reputation for being hostile to bankers. So the search may turn to what Citigroup analyst Stefan Nedialkov called a “deep management bench” within ING.
Here are five of the potential frontrunners:
Steven van Rijswijk, Chief Risk Officer
Holding the position since 2017, van Rijswijk is well-respected both inside and outside ING. In 2018, he played a role in the effort to win back public trust with a repentant appearance at a Dutch Parliament hearing on money laundering. Before joining the board, Van Rijswijk held several positions working with corporate clients over 20 years. However, he doesn’t have much experience in digitizing consumer banking, the core business of the bank under Hamers.
Benoit Legrand, Chief Innovation Officer
By contrast, high-tech banking is the main job for Legrand, chief innovation officer since early 2018. Before that, he was the head of fintech and led ING in France. “You need a CEO who knows how to further digitize the bank,” KBC analyst Jason Kalamboussis said. “Benoit Legrand could be a good choice in that direction.” Legrand hasn’t had the operational experience of some of the other contenders, which may raise questions about his experience driving the bank’s broader financial strategy.
Pinar Abay, Head of Benelux
Pinar Abay joined ING as CEO of the Turkish business in 2011 when she was just 34. In December, she was promoted to head of the bank’s biggest markets, the Netherlands and Belgium. The Turkish native was lauded in a profile by Harvard Business School, her alma mater, for unusual steps including sitting for hours in call centers and personally answering customer complaints on Twitter. Getting the top job would be a big step up and the opportunity may come a bit too early for her.
Tanate Phutrakul, Chief Financial Officer
As CFO, Phutrakul is already in the top tier of the bank’s management. The Thailand-born banker was promoted to his current role after Koos Timmermans resigned in September 2018 amid political fallout from the bank’s record settlement over money laundering charges. Television appearances after earnings, including on Bloomberg TV, have helped raise Phutrakul’s profile. Although he has international experience and is financially well-versed, the executive would have to prove that he can effectively preach the message of digitization and handle the political challenges of heading a Dutch bank.
Nick Jue, Head of ING Germany
Jue is one of ING’s most experienced executives but his history could also work against him. After joining in 1993, he held multiple key roles and was responsible for integrating its Postbank unit. With deep roots in Dutch financial culture, he’s probably the best known of the ING executives after Hamers. However, Jue was head of the Dutch retail unit from 2010 to 2017, a period that was the focus of an investigation that led to a massive financial settlement for the bank. He was also widely criticized in the media after a Dutch newspaper in 2012 reported that he insulted a lower-ranked employee during a time of job cuts.
European banks from Credit Suisse Group AG to Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA have seen changes at the top this month, meaning several former CEOs could be available if not actively job hunting. But it may be hard for ING to make a convincing pitch. Sergio Ermotti, who Hamers is replacing at UBS, made about seven times as much as the Dutch executive last year.
--With assistance from Steven Arons.
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