Andrea Enria is returning to the ECB as the head of its banking watchdog, the SSM

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) - The European Central Bank on Wednesday tapped Italy’s Andrea Enria to become the next head of its banking watchdog, created to prevent a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis that nearly destroyed the euro.

In a secret ballot, the ECB’s governing council voted for Enria, 57, to succeed Daniele Nouy as chair of the so-called Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) from January.

Enria has headed the London-based European Banking Authority (EBA) for the past seven years and is a former ECB employee.

“The Governing Council of the European Central Bank today nominated Andrea Enria as the new Chair of the Supervisory Board,” the Frankfurt-based bank said in a statement.

The ECB’s chosen candidate still needs to be approved by the European Parliament. He would serve a non-renewable five-year term.

Nouy’s successor faces the daunting job of tackling the stockpile of soured loans that are still weighing on banks’ balance sheets, a hangover from the eurozone debt crisis.

The SSM was created in 2014 and is tasked with monitoring 118 of the largest banks in the 19-nation single currency area, representing nearly 82 percent of the region’s total banking assets.

A key part of its mission is to carry out regular “stress tests” along with the EBA to determine whether banks have enough of a capital cushion to weather potential financial shocks.

Hailing from the same country as ECB chief Mario Draghi, Enria’s appointment would mean that two of the most senior ECB roles are held by Italians.

The race to replace Nouy comes as a number of high-profile ECB jobs are up for grabs next year.

Draghi’s term ends in October 2019, while chief economist Peter Praet signs off in May and board member Benoit Coeure in December.

The choice for Enria comes despite pressure on the ECB to hire more women for top jobs.

The ECB vowed earlier this year to step up efforts to recruit female staff after falling short of its own goals to improve the gender balance at the bank.

Just 17 percent of the most senior management roles were held by women at the end of 2017, against a target of 24 percent.