AMSTERDAM Dutch bank and insurance group ING ING.AS picked Ralph Hamers, head of its business in Belgium and Luxembourg, to succeed Jan Hommen as chief executive, a move that emphasises its focus on Europe following divestments in Asia and the Americas.
Like its Dutch rivals ABN Amro and Rabobank, ING has given up much of its extensive international presence and non-core businesses.
ING "cannot play in the champions' league," said Tom Muller, an analyst at Dutch private bank Theodoor Gilissen. "It should stick to what it is. If you're a top-three bank in the Benelux you earn a decent living, you have a good position... If you choose someone who knows this area well, you indicate this is important."
Hamers, a 46-year-old executive with a background in commercial and retail banking, will take over from Dutch business veteran Hommen in October.
Hommen, who turns 70 in April, became chief executive of ING in 2009 after the group was bailed out by the state. He was previously chief financial officer of consumer electronics group Philips (PHG.AS).
Under Hommen, ING has dismantled its once-fashionable bancassurer model and is divesting insurance, investment management and other assets through disposals or stock market listings as it prepares to repay the state.
Last year, pan-Asian insurer AIA Group Ltd (AIG.N) agreed to buy ING's Malaysian insurance operations for $1.73 billion and Hong Kong businessman Richard Li, the younger son of Asia's richest man, agreed to buy ING's Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand insurance units for $2.14 billion.
Now Hamers and Hommen will be kept busy with the planned listing of the group's U.S. operations, further asset sales in Asia and repayment of the rest of the state aid.
SNS Securities analyst Lemer Salah said ING Bank was adopting a different profile, going back to its core market and selling less complex retail products.
"To put uncomplicated products in the market requires knowledge of the home market, and that can only be done by someone with that knowledge," said Salah.
Hamers, who joined ING in 1991 as a relationship manager for structured finance, worked in Romania, was global head of ING's commercial banking network and has been head of ING Belgium and Luxemburg since March 2011.
Earlier this month, ING said it would cut 2,400 jobs in Belgium and the Netherlands, saying the new lay-offs at IT and call centres were needed to lower costs in its retail banks in those countries.
ING shares were up about 0.9 percent at 6.22 euros by 1027 GMT following the announcement. (Writing by Sara Webb; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)