ABN Amro Promotes CFO Van Dijkhuizen in Surprise Choice for CEO

  • New CEO to help Dutch state sell down rest of 77% stake
  • Dutch finance minister reportedly blocked Vogelzang promotion

ABN Amro Group NV promoted former civil servant Kees van Dijkhuizen to be chief executive officer and help complete its privatization, passing over candidates including a retail-banking head who has been with the Dutch lender since before its crisis-era nationalization.

Van Dijkhuizen, 60, chief financial officer since 2013, will assume the CEO role by mid-February, subject to regulatory approval, ABN Amro said after markets closed Tuesday. The new CEO will “create the conditions for the Dutch government to further sell down the remaining shareholding,” the Amsterdam-based bank said.

“The decision comes as a surprise to us,” KBC analyst Matthias de Wit, who left his buy rating on the shares unchanged, said in a note. He had predicted the next CEO would be Chris Vogelzang, 53, a 16-year veteran of ABN Amro who oversees retail and private banking and sits on the management board.

Van Dijkhuizen succeeds Gerrit Zalm, a 64-year-old former finance minister who took over in 2009 after the bank’s near collapse during the financial crisis. Amid Dutch public anger against bankers, Zalm sold businesses and eliminated jobs, creating more of a domestic-focused lender out of what was once one of the world’s biggest banks.

“Over the past 11 years, Kees van Dijkhuizen has proven himself as an outstanding banker and a good executive with a strong sense for society," said Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, according to Dutch newswire ANP.

The stock has gained about 16 percent since the lender’s initial public offering almost a year ago. The shares rose 0.4 percent to 20.69 euros at 11:54 a.m. in Amsterdam.

Job Cuts

Before announcing his departure, Zalm set out plans to cut as many as 1,375 jobs by 2020 to reduce expenses. The firm is targeting 200 million euros ($221 million) of cost cuts amid increasing competition, regulatory pressures and low interest rates that are crimping earnings at European banks.

Van Dijkhuizen and the bank’s board will “give form and content to the strategy, the organization and the composition of senior management,” the bank said. “ABN Amro, in this next stage, should stand for an entrepreneurial culture, client focus, sustainable growth and sensitivity to society.”

Zalm said in September that he would step down in 2017 because the bank needed a longer-term leader after its return to the stock market. The government still owns about 77 percent of the lender, which was nationalized following an ill-timed takeover by a group including Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

For more on Zalm’s decision to depart, click here.

Van Dijkhuizen had served as CFO of NIBC Bank NV from 2005 to 2013 and previously held positions at the Dutch ministries of finance and economic affairs, including budget director and treasurer general.

— With assistance by Corina Ruhe

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