European central bank says new ABN Amro chair should be a banker

Amsterdam’s Zuidas business district. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has made it clear that as the ultimate regulator, the European Central Bank would have the last say over the nomination of the new supervisory board chairman of ABN Amro bank.

The post is being vacated on 1 July by Olga Zoutendijk after objections to her management style.

The ECB is insisting that the new head of the supervisory board have wide experience as a banker, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Friday. Hoekstra has influence over the nomination both because the finance ministry is a member of a major advisory board and is a 56% shareholder in ABN Amro.

Complicated

Hoekstra told parliament’s finance committee on Thursday the search for a new chairman will be ‘very complicated’.  For a start, it is practically a given that the job should go to a woman. And during Thursday’s debate, MPs said said the candidate should have ‘good social antenne’.

Jan Patternote of Liberal democrats D66 favours someone who is ‘non-political’. Christian Democrat Erik Ronnes fears the banking qualifications will cancel out the required social responsibilities. Both the PvdA and GroenLinks fear that a candidate with the necessary banking background will result in a candidate who also demonstrates the ‘undesirable features’ of an old-style banker.

Pay

Almost all say remuneration must be moderate to avoid ‘another ING-like situation’. This refers to the recent row about the 50% pay rise for ING CEO Ralph Hamers.

Hoekstra told parliament’s finance specialists that social aspects of the job are of ultimate importance. He also finds it ‘crucial’ that the bank does not again nominate a candidate without first-hand knowledge of the Dutch management system’. Her critics, which include former ABN Amro CEO Gerrit Zalm, claim Zoutendijk ‘did not know her place’.

Zoutendijk operated according to the Anglo-American one-tier management model rather than the Dutch two-tier management scheme, the FD said, Hoekstra said he would do his utmost to see this is not repeated, although he warned about the ECB’s insistence on a banking background.

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