* SEB CEO Falkengren to step down later this year
* Falkengren to become partner at Swiss asset manager
* SEB outperformed European banks during Falkengren tenure (Adds SEB chairman, analyst comment, share price reaction)
By Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson
STOCKHOLM, Jan 16 (Reuters) - SEB CEO Annika Falkengren, who steered Sweden’s fourth-biggest bank through the financial crisis and its aftermath, is quitting to join Swiss wealth and asset manager firm Lombard Odier Group.
Falkengren, 54, is one of only a few female bank chief executives in Europe and a flag-bearer for women in Swedish industry where women hold the top job in only 6 percent of listed companies.
She said she would leave SEB, the central hub of the Wallenberg family business empire, in July because she could not see an operational role for herself at the bank, which she joined 30 years ago as a trainee. She will join Lombard Odier Group as a managing partner.
Falkengren earned 22.5 million Swedish crowns ($2.5 million) in 2015, according to the bank’s annual report, making her one of Sweden’s best paid executives.
SEB said it is looking for a replacement to run the bank, which was founded in 1856 by the chairman’s great-great grandfather, after Falkengren streamlined and integrated its activities after taking over the helm in 2005.
Falkengren concentrated on boosting capital after losses in its Baltic business forced SEB to raise 15 billion Swedish crowns ($1.67 billion) after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
During her tenure, SEB Swedish media focused not only on her business achievements but also on how she successfully combined running a bank and motherhood, including sending breast milk by taxi for her infant daughter or going home for lunch for feeds.
Unlike many of their peers in Europe, Swedish banks fared relatively well during the financial crisis, with none requiring a bail-out from the government.
“She has navigated SEB through an extremely difficult time in the history of the financial industry,” SEB chairman Marcus Wallenberg said, adding that the bank remains “committed to the current business plan and our financial targets”.
Shares in SEB were down 1.5 percent at 1111 GMT, in line with the blue-chip Stockholm index, with analysts saying the departure of Falkengren was a blow. SEB stock has risen by 23 percent since she was appointed, while the European banking index is down around 50 percent.
Low funding costs and cutting-edge IT systems have enabled Swedish banks to deliver returns on equity roughly double those of their European counterparts since the crash.
“She sticks out both in the fact that she is a woman and that she has been in her position for so long,” said Amanda Lundeteg, CEO of AllBright Foundation, a non profit foundation which promotes equality and diversity in senior business posts. ($1 = 8.9569 Swedish crowns) (Additional reporting by Rebecka Roos and Daniel Dickson; Editing by Susan Thomas and Alexander Smith)