Norway’s Sparebank 1 SR-Bank is looking for a new chief executive after Benedicte Schilbred Fasmer resigned.

Fasmer, who joined the shipping lender as CEO in January 2021, is leaving to take over state-owned Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor on 1 December, replacing Sigve Brekke after nine years in the top job.

The bank’s board has begun the process of finding her successor, but Fasmer will remain in position “for the time being”.

“During her years at the company, she has helped to strengthen the company’s position in the market through strong results, significant growth and new initiatives in South Norway,” the bank added.

Fasmer has been overseeing the largest Norwegian banking merger in 25 years.

Sparebank 1 is uniting with SpareBank 1 Sorost-Norge to create Norway’s second-biggest bank behind DNB.

Clearance from the Norwegian Competition Authority was received on 17 April.

A new entity, SpareBank 1 Sor-Norge, should be operational by July after shareholders agreed on the deal in December.

The merger was announced last October.

‘Outstanding job’

Fasmer, from Bergen, is married with two children and has also worked at DNB Bank as head of corporate banking.

“Benedicte has done an outstanding job as the CEO of SpareBank 1 SR-Bank, and I would like to thank her for her efforts, commitment and the results she has achieved in the company,” said chairman Dag Mejdell.

“For the board, it is important that SpareBank 1 SR-Bank continues its positive development, both in daily operations and in the work with the merger. Therefore, the board will take the necessary time before a new CEO is in place.”

Telenor chairman Jens Petter Olsen said: “We need a CEO with great leadership skills, who understands how technology will enable us to deliver secure and superior customer experience, and someone who will ensure profitable growth.”

In April, SpareBank 1 SR-Bank revealed that it had bucked the trend of diminishing shipping loan books to edge up its portfolio.

Lending to shipping and other transport ended the first quarter at NOK 9.43bn ($860m), from NOK 9.39bn three months previously.

The shipping book had shrunk NOK 4.83bn from the end of September to 31 December.

Banks had noted cash-rich shipowners repaying loans quickly during 2023.

SpareBank 1 had NOK 2m of shipping loans in the final stage of restructuring before default, up from zero in the fourth quarter.