Coene (pictured) is presently deputy governor, but his history is political. From 1995 to 1999 he was a senator appointed by the Flemish liberal party Open VLD. Later he was the cabinet chief to VLD prime minister Guy Verhofstadt. Constitutionally, the appointment is somewhat unusual since the age limit for National Bank governor is 67. Although Coene will be 64 this month, he has been appointed for a term of five years.
The administration of Yves Leterme, which has held caretaker office since the June elections, is only mandated to take care of "running matters" - which does not include nominations for top jobs. However, since negotiations to form a new government have now taken a world-record length of time, with no end in sight, the government decided to go ahead with the appointment.
Coene had last year been seen as the clear successor to Quaden, but his position was made difficult not only by the arrival of a caretaker government, but by the departure of Open VLD from both that government and the negotiations to form a new one.
Now those hurdles, and the opposition of N-VA to his promotion, seem to have been left behind. One of the main pressures on the government was the change due to come into force on 1 April, whereby the Banking, Finance and Insurance Commission (CBFA), which currently regulates the whole financial sector, hands its oversight of the banks and insurance companies to the NBB. According to Quaden, speaking in an interview with financial daily De Tijd, it was now time for the government to give the NBB "a stable direction" in light of the transfer.
Coene was born in Ghent in 1947 and studied economics at the city's university and European economic integration at the College of Europe in Bruges. He started work in the research department of the NBB in 1973, moving on to the International Monetary Fund in 1979. He became Verhofstadt's cabinet chief in 1985, when Verhofstadt was budget minister, then was called back in 1999 when Verhofstadt became prime minister.
At the same time as Coene's appointment, the government also renewed the appointments of four NBB directors for a period of six years.