November 28, 2018 / 5:42 PM / 21 days ago

UPDATE 2-BBVA picks U.S. head Onur Genç as new CEO in digital drive

* New CEO to take over at end of 2018

* Onur Genç will lead BBVA's digital transformation

* Reaffirms bank's global ambitions (Adds details)

By Jesús Aguado

MADRID, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Spain's BBVA named Onur Genç as its new chief executive on Wednesday, with the head of the Spanish bank's U.S. operations due to take over its online transformation from Carlos Torres at the end of 2018.

Genç's appointment reaffirms the bank's global ambitions and in particular a commitment to Turkey and the U.S., a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The succession was widely expected as Torres has already been appointed to replace Francisco Gonzalez as executive chairman of Spain's second-biggest bank.

After joining BBVA's Turkish division Garanti in 2012 as executive vice president for retail banking, Genç was named deputy CEO of the Turkish lender in 2015, assuming responsibility for its wholesale banking too.

"Onur ... is the ideal CEO to continue pushing forward our strategy and boosting our transformation throughout all our franchises," BBVA said in a statement.

The appointment of Genç, who is CEO of Alabama-based BBVA Compass and U.S. country manager for BBVA, confirms BBVA's strategy of shifting towards more digital services.

In the U.S., Genç not only made significant progress in increasing the bank's financial results but "also on the development and improvement of digital capabilities", BBVA said.

However, there is uncertainty over whether digital services can generate the healthy profits the bank has enjoyed for the last two decades, particularly when one of its main markets, Turkey, is struggling.

TURKISH TROUBLES

Turkey, the bank's now fourth-biggest market, is going through a worsening economic situation, forcing BBVA to strike a more cautious approach.

In the third quarter, BBVA's net profit in Turkey dropped 40.7 percent after the lira slumped in August, whereas in the U.S., net profit climbed 29 percent in the quarter.

Shares in BBVA are down 30 percent so far this year. A jump in the bank's third-quarter profit was mainly the result of one-off gains and a strong performance in Mexico, which has overtaken Spain as BBVA's biggest business.

BBVA's announcement comes just two months after its rival Banco Santander, named former investment banker Andrea Orcel as its CEO, who is also expected to put more emphasis on digital banking. (Reporting by Jesús Aguado Editing by Andrei Khalip and Alexander Smith)

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