Michael Chang (
"I accepted the Ministry of Finance's offer to take up the long-vacant post on Wednesday," Chang said in a phone interview yesterday.
Restructuring will be his first priority after assuming the office of the nation's fifth largest financial group by assets, Chang said.
Chang wouldn't reveal any details of his restructuring plan, although he did say that it would not involve any layoffs.
First Financial is likely to form strategic partnership with foreign financial institutions in the future in a bid to sharpen its marketing and new product design capabilities, he added.
Chang's appointment, however, sparked market speculation about government plans to sell the financial holding firm.
"Based on his past performance, Chang could be a tool for the authorities to implement certain policies," SinoPac Securities Corp's (建華證券) finance analyst Chu Yu-cun (朱玉君) said.
It is likely that Chang could promote the sale of First Financial as a trigger for the government's consolidation plan to halve the number of financial holding firms to seven by year end, Chu said.
Chang yesterday downplayed the rumors, saying that he "was not appointed for this reason."
Chang, 58, a certified public account, started his banking career as a superintendent of First Commercial Bank (
In 2004, Chang was appointed to chair the ill-performing Bank of Overseas Chinese (
Last September, Chang was appointed to head Taiwan Business Bank after the lender's failed share sale. Under his leadership, the bank's defaulted loan ratio has dropped to 2.35 percent from around 4.6 percent through huge write-offs of over NT$13-billion in bad debt.
Improved performance had prompted state-controlled Mega Financial Holding Co (兆豐金控) to acquire a 26-percent stake in the bank by the end of this quarter. Taiwan Business Bank is slated to be merged in the next three years, in accordance with the government's goal of consolidating state banks.
On the strength of his achievements and, reportedly, close ties to the first family, Chang beat out rivals rumored to include Land Bank of Taiwan (
Responding to Chang's appointment, First Bank Industrial Union (
"We expect a long-term, committed chairmanship, not just the short-term measures that Chang instituted at Taiwan Business Bank," First Bank Industrial Union Chairman Chi Sheng-li (紀勝利) said.
First Financial employees were counting on Chang to ensure the bank's sustainable operation, rather than put it up for sale, Chi said.
First Financial is slated to hold a board directors meeting to approve the appointment next Monday.