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BANKING

Erste seeks new start after CEO exit

Bernd Spalt’s rift with his board shows Austria’s biggest bank is still finding its way in the post-Treichl era, even as it outperforms peers.

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Given how well Erste Bank is doing, chief executive Bernd Spalt’s exit over disagreements with his board comes as a shock to the banking community, both in Vienna and across central Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only served to emphasize how well Erste is doing versus its regional peers.

Staff at the Austrian lender are unused to frequent changes at the top. While Spalt was previously deputy CEO and spent his entire career at Erste, he has only held the chief executive job since early 2020. His predecessor, Andreas Treichl, was CEO for 22 years. One insider at Erste says Spalt is unlikely to serve out his contract, which ends on June 30, 2023. The search for a replacement is under way.

Spalt is not the only European bank chief executive to announce an exit this May. Frédéric Oudéa, the long-standing chief executive of Societe Generale, announced he would not renew his contract next year. Erste and SocGen have big businesses in central and eastern Europe, but Erste stands out among the leading regional players, because it is the only one without a large Russian business.

The supervisory board … want to proceed more quickly.

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