UniCredit SpA (UCG) Chief Executive Officer Federico Ghizzoni is seeking to recruit a new chairman of Italy’s biggest bank who has an international profile.
“Our profile isn’t indicating that the chairman has to be Italian or not Italian, it’s indicating that it must have an international profile,” he told journalists in Vienna late yesterday. “To have someone that’s challenging is good.”
UniCredit is seeking a new chairman to replace Dieter Rampl, whose appointment expires in May, after he announced he won’t stand for another term. Rampl, 64, a former head of HVB Group, was named to the post in 2006 after the German bank was purchased by Milan-based UniCredit.
UniCredit’s core shareholders, the country’s non-profit banking foundations, which hold more than 10 percent of the lender, have started discussions on possible candidates. The bank authorized Deputy Chairman Vincenzo Calandra Buonaura to select candidates. Most of the foundations, including Fondazione Cariverona, prefer an Italian replacement.
“I would be against a pure domestic Italian, but I would also be against a pure Austrian, or a pure German, or a pure Russian with no international experience,” Ghizzoni told reporters. “We seek a chairman with strong direct experience in the financial sector and integrity.”
UniCredit’s investors will vote to renew all board members, including the CEO, on May 11. The list must be submitted by mid- April. Foundations may have to reduce their seats because Ghizzoni wants to cut the size of the board to less than 20 members from 23.
“Best practice in European governance is suggesting to have a more limited board but with people that are full-time,” the CEO said. “It’s preferable to have less but more committed board members.”
Under Ghizzoni, 56, the bank completed a 7.5 billion-euro ($9.9 billion) share sale in January to plug a capital shortfall and comply with European Banking Authority targets. Ghizzoni is cutting costs to boost profitability after reporting a third- quarter loss of 10.6 billion euros. The bank is focusing on four main countries: Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland.
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