• Gajewski was in charge of retail lending at BCP’s Polish unit
  • Zachodni takes over after former CEO joined new government

Bank Zachodni WBK SA appointed Michal Gajewski to lead Poland’s third-largest bank as the industry faces headwinds from new levies and more stringent capital requirements.

Gajewski, who’s expanded retail-banking operations at Warsaw-based Bank Millennium SA for the past four years, will take the top post at the Polish unit of Banco Santander SA as soon as he receives regulatory approval. 

He isn’t new to Zachodni, having worked there from 1992 to 2008 before servings as BGZ SA’s deputy CEO. He’ll replace Mateusz Morawiecki, who left in November to become Poland’s deputy prime minister and development minister in charge of economic affairs.

The appointment comes at a turbulent time for the country’s lenders. Poland’s six-month-old government imposed a levy on banking assets to finance social spending pledged during election campaigns last year. Officials are also debating a plan to force banks to bear the brunt of costs that may arise from converting Swiss-franc mortgages into zloty.

That risk, coupled with record-low interest rates, may further erode their profits and drive some of them to losses. Zachodni said last month its first-quarter profit dropped 46 percent from a year earlier, with analysts predicting its 2016 net will drop 14 percent.

Other candidates for CEO included an insider Feliks Szyszkowiak, in charge of small- and medium-seized companies at Zachodni, as well as Andrzej Klesyk, a former CEO of Poland’s largest insurer, PZU SA, according to March reports by the Puls Biznesu newspaper.

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