Finance

Societe Generale chief executive Frédéric Oudéa to step down next year

Frédéric Oudéa, chief executive of French bank Societe Generale, is set to step down from the bank next year, calling time on one of the longest reigns of a major European bank.

Oudéa, who took charge of SocGen in 2008, will not seek re-election as chief executive in May 2023, the bank said in a statement. He announced the decision at the bank’s annual general meeting held on 17 May.

The French bank has kick-started the search for a new chief executive, yet another change at the top of European banks, which have fallen behind their Wall Street competitors since the 2008 financial crisis.

“The board of directors acknowledged Frédéric Oudéa’s decision and reiterated its confidence in him to lead the group until that time,” the bank said.

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Oudéa has emerged a survivor as a long-serving chief executive in Europe while rivals have gone through successive changes over the past 14 years.

Churn at the top of European banks, and a dearth of talent to take the lead, has been a common theme for well over a decade. Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, Barclays and UniCredit have all named new chief executives during Oudéa’s tenure.

This is despite a succession of strategy changes and a share price that has tumbled by around 75% since he took charge. Speculation about Oudéa’s future has been rife for years, with Bloomberg reporting last year that the bank had hired headhunters Egon Zehnder to find his replacement.

Oudea’s latest challenge has been Societe Generale’s extensive exposure to Russia, which is one of the largest of any European bank, after the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February prompted international lenders to pull out en masse. In April, the French lender announced that it would sell its local subsidiary, Rosbank, to Interros Capital, which is linked to Russian oligarch, Vladimir Potanin.  The bank will take a €3bn hit from the sale.

SocGen’s investment bank has been subject to ongoing cost cuts as it has attempted to expand beyond its traditional strength in equity derivatives. In November 2020, it slashed 640 jobs from its French investment bank as it looked to strip out around €450m within its capital markets unit by 2023. This followed a reduction of 1,200 people within the unit in 2019 as part of a broader retreat from non-core business lines.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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