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National Bank of Canada has promoted investment-banking co-head Laurent Ferreira to be its chief operating officer, setting him up as the leading candidate to succeed long-serving chief executive officer Louis Vachon.

In his new role, which starts Feb. 1, Mr. Ferreira will report to Mr. Vachon, with broad oversight of the bank’s three key business lines in personal and commercial banking, wealth management and financial markets businesses. He will also be in charge of the bank’s operations and technology groups, and will join National Bank’s board of directors – a rare position for an executive who is not the CEO.

A 23-year veteran at Montreal-based National Bank, Mr. Ferreira has been co-head of the financial markets arm with Denis Girouard, who will assume full responsibility for the division. Three other senior executives will still report directly to Mr. Vachon – head of risk management William Bonnell, head of employee experience Brigitte Hébert and chief financial officer Ghislain Parent. But the other top executives at the bank now report to Mr. Ferreira.

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His elevation to COO charts a familiar course to the CEO’s chair. In the summer of 2006, Mr. Vachon was appointed as National Bank’s chief operating officer, then took over as CEO in the summer of 2007. More recently, Bank of Montreal’s Darryl White was leading BMO’s capital markets arm when he was named COO in late 2016, before succeeding Bill Downe as the bank’s CEO a year later.

Although National Bank made no mention of succession plans in a news release announcing Mr. Ferreira’s new role, spokesperson Claude Breton said the move makes Mr. Ferreira “well-positioned to be the next CEO, for sure, but Louis is not retiring. It’s going to be analyzed in the context of the current economic crisis and the [COVID-19] crisis.”

In a statement, Mr. Vachon said Mr. Ferreira “is recognized by colleagues as an inspirational leader that gets the best from every team.”

“I am confident that Laurent’s leadership and broad business experience will be great assets to ensure the Bank’s continued growth and success in the future,” he said.

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