PARIS, May 17 (Reuters) - Societe Generale Chief
Executive Frederic Oudea in a surprise move on Tuesday said he
would step down next year, bringing to an end what will be a
15-year reign running the lender.
France's third-biggest listed bank said it would launch the
process of finding a successor for Oudea, who has been CEO since
2008, and should be finished by 2023.
"It is a decision I took with humility, lots of emotion but
also with a serene mind," said Oudea, whose last major job was
to broker an orderly exit from Russia through the sale of the
company's local unit to an oligarch close to the Kremlin.
Oudea is one of the longest serving CEOs in European banking
since the financial crisis, while rivals have been through
multiple changes of leadership as the industry has struggled to
restore profitability. As with many other European banks,
however, SocGen's shares have more than halved since the 2008
Under Oudea's leadership SocGen has streamlined operations
in recent years to boost returns and financial solvency, notably
by selling businesses in Central and Eastern Europe and
refocusing its corporate and investment banking.
"While this is a surprise, the news makes sense to us," said
Jefferies analyst Flora Bocahut in a note, calling it
"understandable" for the bank and its boss to draw a line after
"Also, we find the timing is right with SocGen's P&L
performance having significantly recovered from the recent lows,
capital being sufficient, the 2025 strategy clear & in motion."
A graduate of elite French schools Ecole Polytechnique and
ENA, Oudea joined Societe Generale in 1995.
He became finance chief in January 2003 before taking over
as CEO in 2008 in the wake of huge losses on equity derivatives
caused by rogue trader Jerome Kerviel.
Oudea then became chairman and CEO until 2015 when the
function was split.
The French bank had a strong start to 2022, reporting a
profit rebound for the fourth quarter of last year on lower
pandemic-related charges and a retail banking and equity trading
rebound, and said it expected to improve profitability in coming
Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, however, has created
uncertainty for SocGen and other European banks, and has reduced
its capital cushion.
This month, the bank beat first-quarter earnings
expectations but booked higher provisions for loans turning bad
as the economic impact of the war hit customers.
The bank said in April it would quit Russia and sell its
Rosbank business there to Interros Capital, a company
linked to Russian oligarch Vladimir Potanin, writing off roughly
3.1 billion euros ($3.3 billion).
($1 = 0.9486 euro)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Matthieu Protard in Paris,
additional reporting by Elisa Martinuzzi and Michelle Price;
Editing by Tassilo Hummel, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Matthew
Lewis and Marguerita Choy)