TEL AVIV, May 24 (Reuters) - The deputy chief executive at Israel's biggest lender Bank Hapoalim will take over as CEO when Zion Kenan steps down, as announced in March, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.
The appointment of Hapoalim veteran Ari Pinto would come at a testing time for Israeli banks as they face reforms that have provoked a row between the finance ministry and the central bank and raised fears about the stability of the financial system.
Pinto, who is also chief operating officer, has been with Hapoalim since 1980 and was appointed to his current position in February. He has served on the board of management since 2009 and was head of retail banking from 2013-2015.
Israeli financial news websites said the decision to appoint Pinto was made by a search committee charged with finding a new CEO. The appointment would need the approval of the banking regulator.
A spokeswoman for Bank Hapoalim declined to comment.
Hapoalim announced in late March that Kenan would step down in six months after 38 years at the bank and more than seven years as CEO.
Kenan, 60, who said he wanted to explore new business challenges in Israel and abroad, leaves at a time of upheaval in Israel's banking industry.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is pushing for reforms that will split banks from their credit card companies in a bid to create more competition within the sector, but this has sparked a row with the central bank.
In addition, Israel's parliament has introduced one of the world's toughest curbs on bank executives' salaries. (Reporting by Tova Cohen; editing by David Clarke)