Rabobank New Zealand chief executive Daryl Johnson has resigned, less than two years after taking over the reins of the rural lending specialist.

Johnson's resignation will take effect on December 22, and Rabobank NZ has commenced a process to appoint a new chief executive officer, chair Henry van der Heyden said in a statement to the NZX. Johnson joined the bank in July last year, having previously led National Australia Bank's Asia business.

In March, the rural lending specialist posted a 14 per cent decline in annual profit to $89.5 million last year. The decline in profit was largely due to the bank booking $15.1m in impairment charges on bad debt. At the time, Johnson said the provisioning was prudent given the challenging dairy industry conditions experienced in recent seasons.

New Zealand lenders have been struggling to attract depositors over the past year as record low interest rates reduce the appeal of term deposits, meaning banks have been forced to tap more expensive wholesale funding lines overseas. However, Rabobank increased deposits 8.5 per cent to $4.14 billion through 2016.

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The bank is owned by Netherlands-based Rabobank Nederland.