• Bank may named successor as early as first quarter of 2016
  • Zielke, Beumer seen as favorites among internal candidates

Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second-largest bank, is considering external and internal candidates to replace Martin Blessing when he steps down as chief executive officer next year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The bank may name a successor as early as the first quarter, said one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous discussing personnel matters.

Blessing, 52, is the latest CEO to join an unprecedented wave of management changes at Europe’s banks and plans to step down when his contract ends next October. He was offered an extension, but turned it down, Commerzbank said in a statement on Nov. 1.

Commerzbank is emerging from an overhaul after its 18.2 billion-euro ($19.4 billion) bailout in the financial crisis and soured investments ranging from shipping loans to Greek government bonds. While the company is “once again robust,” low interest rates and stricter regulatory requirements are “major challenges” for lenders, Blessing told staff in an internal memo this month.

The executives who run Commerzbank’s two biggest units are probably the favorites among internal candidates, Michael Seufert, an analyst at Norddeutsche Landesbank, said when Blessing’s departure was announced.

Martin Zielke runs consumer banking and Markus Beumer is head of the division that caters to small and medium-sized companies, the company’s two largest businesses.

Rainer Neske, who stepped down as head of consumer banking at Deutsche Bank AG this year, and Theodor Weimer, the head of UniCredit SpA’s German unit, have been considered potential candidates to succeed Blessing, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported earlier this month, without citing anyone.

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