(Bloomberg) -- Standard Chartered Plc is in the early stages of a search for its next chair as the emerging markets-focused bank prepares for the departure of Jose Vinals, who’s entering his eighth year in the role.

The London-based lender is working with outside recruiters on a global search to identify candidates to find a replacement for Vinals, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Vinals, a former deputy governor of the Spanish central bank and International Monetary Fund executive, began as chairman in late 2016, when the bank was under fire from US prosecutors for sanctions violations linked to Iran. Nine years is the maximum length of service recommended by the UK’s Corporate Governance Code.

He is expected to announce his departure as early as next year, and the bank has begun a global search for his successor to ensure a smooth transition ahead of it, one of the people said. 

“The Board (and nominating committee) regularly reviews succession planning and has oversight of detailed plans, including the process of external market mapping of key Board and senior management roles,” according to a statement from Standard Chartered. 

The next chair will help oversee a new chief financial officer. In August, the lender said Andy Halford is retiring and will be replaced by investment banking veteran Diego De Giorgi over the next year. 

One of the top priorities for Vinals’ successor will be preparing for the eventual departure of Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters, who has led the firm since June 2015, making him the longest-serving CEO of a major British bank. The company’s share price has dropped by around a third since Winters joined, giving it a market value of about £17.7 billion ($22.3 billion).

Standard Chartered makes almost all of its money in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It was in the spotlight at the start of the year after Bloomberg reported that First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC had explored a potential bid for the company. FAB said in January it had considered an offer but was not currently doing so. 

During his tenure, Vinals has overseen a turnaround of Standard Chartered as Winters curtailed risk, cut costs and moved to improve the bank’s digital offering. Vinals has also helped the lender walk a delicate tightrope between Beijing and Washington, given its role as a major US dollar clearer with significant operations in China.

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