Lloyds Banking Group's chief executive António Horta-Osório said today he would step down next year after nearly a decade at the helm of Britain's biggest domestic bank. 

While his departure had been expected, it leaves Lloyds with the task of finding a successor at a critical time to steer the bank through the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic as lenders brace for a wave of bad debts. 

A Lloyds spokesman said a search for a successor that would include both internal and external candidates would begin imminently.

The bank added that Horta-Osório, 56, had given the company no indication of what he planned to do next. 

Lloyds shares have halved since Horta-Osorio took over in 2011, though they were up for much of his tenure before slumping along with other bank stocks due to the coronavirus. 

John Cronin, analyst at Goodbody, said Horta-Osório's departure could see some musical chairs at top banks. 

He said people likely to be linked to the Lloyds role included UniCredit chief executive Jean-Pierre Mustier and Alison Brittain, head of hospitality company Whitbread. 

"While (Horta-Osório) will be sorely missed, it is not surprising that he is planning to move on after what will be 10 years at the helm come 2021," John Cronin said. 

Horta-Osório led a turnaround at Lloyds in the aftermath of its government rescue in the 2007-09 financial crisis and the bank returned fully to private hands in 2017. 

During his time at Lloyds the Portuguese banker won plaudits for championing mental health issues at companies after himself being signed off work for two months in 2011 for stress-induced insomnia and exhaustion. 

But he faced strident criticism over his high pay and for Lloyds' handling of a major fraud at its HBOS Reading branch that led to six people being jailed in 2017. 

Horta-Osório said he would leave by June next year and was going with mixed emotions. He told staff in a memo seen by Reuters that leading Lloyds had been the job of a lifetime.

Lloyds also said today it had appointed industry veteran Robin Budenberg as chairman. He will join the board in October before taking over from Norman Blackwell early next year. 

Budenberg built his career in investment banking at SG Warburg and UBS. He advised the British government on its bailout of banks, including Lloyds, during the financial crisis. 

He later led the government's UK Financial Investments and was a chairman of property developer The Crown Estate.