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Outgoing Socgen CEO warm to internal successor, union says

FILE PHOTO: French bank Societe Generale CEO Frederic Oudea attends a news conference to present the company's 2015 annual results La Defense near Paris

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON (Reuters) - The outgoing chief executive of Societe Generale is in favour of selecting an internal candidate to lead the French banking group for the next 10 to 15 years after he leaves, a union representative said after meeting Frederic Oudea.

One of the longest serving chief executives in European banking since the financial crisis, Oudea took investors by surprise on Tuesday, when he said he would step down in 2023 after 15 years of running the lender.

Philippe Fournil, an official of the CGT union, said Oudea's successor was expected to be announced within six months so as to allow a smooth transition period of a half year.

In a note on the union's website, Fournier wrote, "While he stressed that the choice will be made by the board of directors, Frederic Oudea insisted on the quality of the current management team and its deep knowledge of the company."

"He's therefore leaning towards an internal choice even if the process won't rule out any options," added Fournier, an official of the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT) union at the bank.

In order to focus on the long term, the new chief executive would ideally be picked from a new generation aged roughly between 45 and 50, he also said in Thursday's note.

A spokeswoman for Societe Generale declined to comment.

In a note, Citi analyst Azzurra Guelfi said, "It is clearly too early to have a view on potential candidates for the role."

She added that the market might consider an internal candidate, in addition to potential external ones, for the role of new CEO, citing divisional heads or deputies among such internal candidates.

The decision would leverage on the group’s sound fundamentals to define the next step for company growth or profitability, she said.

Speculation on the future leader of France's third-biggest listed bank has yet to begin in earnest, but Sebastien Proto, a former managing partner of Rothschild & Cie, who now heads the bank's retail networks, is frequently mentioned.

Other possible candidates, said French business daily Les Echos, are chief operating officer Gaëlle Olivier and Slawomir Krupa, head of global banking and investor solutions activities.

Outside the group, the name of Jean Pierre Mustier, the former chief executive of Italy's Unicredit, who had led Societe Generale's CIB division from 2003 until the Jerome Kerviel trading scandal, is also doing the rounds.

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)