Zbigniew Jagiello unexpectedly quit as chief executive officer of PKO Bank Polski SA after serving almost 12 years at the helm of Poland’s largest lender.
The decision sent shares in the state-run lender down more than 9% on Tuesday and fueled speculation that a long-running power struggle in the ruling coalition forced the resignation of one of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s closest allies. PKO didn’t give a reason for the CEO’s departure, effective June 7.
Jagiello, 57, managed to survive numerous waves of purges of executives at state-controlled banks over past years and stayed relatively independent as politicians battled over appointing loyalists to leading corporations. His resignation comes as PKO prepares to resolve its foreign-currency loans with out of court settlements, blazing a trail for other Polish lenders.
Unlike state peers Bank Pekao SA and insurer PZU SA, PKO didn’t acquire lenders in Poland in recent years as Jagiello was concerned about a rift between PKO and smaller banks with profitability issues. He oversaw PKO’s push into digital banking that boosted profitability of the lender once known mainly for tending to pensioners. Under his watch, the bank achieved higher profitability than peers.
PKO shares dropped as much as 9.2%, the most in nearly 14 months, and traded at 34.07 zloty, 8.3% down on the day, at 3:22 p.m. in Warsaw. This year, the bank advanced 18%, compared with a 5.5% gain of Warsaw’s benchmark WIG20 index..
In his latest interview published on Tuesday, Jagiello said he saw no attractive bank takeover targets in Poland and warned of potential overheating in the local housing market as record-low interest rates pushed more Poles into riskier real-estate.