September 13, 2018 / 1:56 PM / in 6 months

UPDATE 1-Austria's Erste picks internal CEO to follow Treichl in 2020

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VIENNA, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Austria’s Erste Group has picked an internal candidate, Bernhard Spalt, to succeed Andreas Treichl, Europe’s longest-serving bank chief executive, in 2020.

Treichl took over as chairman of the management board at Erste oesterreichische Spar-Casse, the predecessor to Erste Group, more than two decades ago in 1997.

Spalt, chief risk officer of Erste Bank Oesterreich, will become group deputy chief executive in mid-2019 before succeeding Treichl in January 2020, Erste said on Thursday.

Blunt-speaking Treichl, a prime architect of the bank’s push into eastern Europe in pursuit of growth after the fall of the Iron Curtain, will become chairman of Erste Foundation, which is Erste Group’s largest shareholder.

“Bernhard Spalt has worked with Erste Group for more than 25 years and has served in numerous board-level positions on subsidiary and holding company level, ensuring strategic continuity,” Erste Group said in its announcement.

Erste operates directly in six eastern European markets, from the Czech Republic to Serbia and Romania. While it has grown it has also suffered downturns in the region, particularly after the global financial crisis.

Shares in Erste have risen from less than 9 euros at the start of 1997 to more than 36 euros today, but they peaked at more than 57 euros in 2007 before the crisis hit. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Michael Shields and Alexander Smith)

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