EUROPE – Fortis has named a former top retail executive at Citigroup, Jean-Paul Votron, to replace Anton van Rossum as chief executive.

Fortis said Votron would take over from the 59-year-old van Rossum on October 11. Van Rossum had earlier indicated to the Fortis board that he would not extend his contract after August 2005.

Votron, a 53-year-old Belgian national, was until recently CEO of Citigroup's retail bank for western and central Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa.

“Anton informed us already at the end of last year that he wished to conclude his professional career at the age of 60, coinciding with the termination of his five year contract with Fortis in 2005,” said chairman Maurice Lippens.

“In our concerted search for his successor, we were fortunate that Jean-Paul Votron recently became available. He's extremely well positioned to lead Fortis into the next growth phase.”

Lippens paid tribute to van Rossum, saying: “He has led Fortis successfully through very difficult years, preparing Fortis for a prosperous future. The board and the Fortis community at large are very grateful for what he has contributed to Fortis.”

Van Rossum said: “I can now hand over to Jean-Paul in the knowledge and conviction that Fortis is better positioned than ever before to enter a new era of growth. I am looking forward to a new phase in my personal life and will follow Fortis with great interest.”

Votron started his career in 1975 at Unilever. Between 1991 and 1997 he was with Citibank in Europe and the US in senior roles. He was with ABN Amro as senior vice president of international consumer banking from 1997 to 2001, when he rejoined Citigroup.