Societe Generale Turns to Egon Zehnder to Find Next CEO

January 7, 2020 – Financial services organizations, generally, are facing a new competitive landscape, regulatory challenges and a constant struggle to manage cost and efficiency. Overseas, fold in Brexit and you have an environment growing in complexity by the day. Changing times require strategic leaders, both men and women, with a multidimensional skill-sets and competencies that often go beyond any typical job description. But there’s a big problem: In most countries, while women represent about half of the financial services industry, few of them reach leadership positions. That hinders a number of top searches right from the start.

Like all financial institutions, banks continue to turn to executive recruitment firms to find new leaders. The recruiters, in turn, have been working to expand their candidate slates to include large numbers of women. The push for diversity is on, they say, and with it new pressures to produce candidates from a multitude of backgrounds, ethnicities and genders to fill an ever expanding set of search assignments based on far more inclusive corporate agendas.

The latest search: French multinational investment bank Societe Generale SA has launched the formal search for a successor to CEO Frederic Oudea, one of Europe’s longest-standing bank executives. The organization has called in Egon Zehnder to lead the assignment.

The lender is looking internally beyond its three deputy CEOs and will consider external candidates as it prepares for its next leader. According to Bloomberg, the supervisory board wants to identify a replacement once Mr. Oudea’s term ends in about three years, though a candidate could be appointed before then, sources told the news service, asking not to be identified as the plans are private. Mr. Oudea is undertaking the bank’s biggest restructuring in years, cutting 1,600 jobs, slashing costs and paring risk after giving up mid-term targets for growth and profitability. He is looking to preserve the bank’s traditional leadership in businesses such as equity derivatives while strengthening capital and exiting or refocusing fixed-income activities.

Societe Generale is a French multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in Paris. The company is a universal bank and has divisions supporting French networks, global transaction banking, international retail banking, financial services, corporate and investment banking, private banking, asset management and securities services. Societe Generale is France’s third largest bank by total assets, sixth largest in Europe or 17th by market capitalization. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index.

Egon Zehnder’s global wholesale and investment banking practice works closely with international and regional banks and advisory firms to address executive hiring needs and support strategic assessment and development of individual leaders and teams. It has more than 45 consultants worldwide who are serving clients in this sector, advising boards, CEOs and executives on industry-specific leadership strategies, and are career advisors to many top professionals in the industry.

The firm has recruited a number of leaders for banks, including placing Christos Megalou as CEO of Piraeus Bank. Mr. Megalou more than satisfied the organization’s requirement of having at least 10 years of experience in a senior role abroad. He spent 15 years in investment banking at Credit Suisse Group AG prior to joining Eurobank in 2013.

In October, HSBC retained Egon Zehnder to find a new CEO after the surprising firing of John Flint. Europe’s biggest bank, which has a market value of £127 billion, is understood to have appointed the search outfit after meeting with rivals Spencer Stuart and Russell Reynolds Associates. The board will consider internal as well as external candidates.

Banks Turning to Search Firms

Here’s a sampling of some important recent searches that are either underway or recently completed for leading banks, from the Hunt Scanlon Media archives:

Sapphire Partners, a London-based executive search firm, assisted the Bank of England in the recruitment of Andrew Bailey as its new governor. Mr. Bailey will be the 121st governor in the bank’s 325-year history and the ninth to be appointed since its nationalization in 1946. The recruitment firm, which focuses on finding diverse talent, was the first agency ever hired to find someone for the governor role. Leading the assignment for Sapphire Partners was founder Kate Grussing, director Sally Springbett and associate director Caroline Turner.

Following an extensive global search, Spencer Stuart has recruited former Bank of New York Mellon CEO Charles W. Scharf as the new president and CEO of Wells Fargo & Company. While many had expected a woman to take the helm at the banking giant, Mr. Scharf will take on the challenges of the organization’s tainted public image and regulatory issues, according to sources in the executive search industry and a report by Reuters. 

Bank of Marin Bancorp and its subsidiary, Bank of Marin, announced that Korn Ferry has been engaged to commence the search for a president and CEO to succeed Russell A. Colombo. Korn Ferry will work with the board of directors to evaluate a diverse pool of internal and external candidates. Mr. Colombo, who has led the bank since 2006, will continue to serve as president and CEO…

Toronto-based executive search firm Caldwell has placed David W. Glidden as president and CEO for Liberty Bank in Middleton, CT. Partner Rich Perkey and Glenn Buggy, managing partner, both of the firm’s financial services practice, led the assignment for the search firm. Mr. Glidden succeeds Chandler J. Howard, who led the bank since 2007. 

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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