UPDATE 2-Abu Dhabi's top lender names CEO with Asian experience
* Alex Thursby to begin CEO role at NBAD in July
* Thursby replaces Michael Tomalin
* Abu Dhabi lender seeking to boost int'l revenues
* Thursby spearheaded ANZ's expansion drive
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, April 3 (Reuters) - National Bank of Abu Dhabi named the banker who led Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's push into Asia as its chief executive on Wednesday, as it expands abroad from its saturated local market.
Alex Thursby, currently ANZ's chief executive for international and institutional banking, will take over on July 1 at NBAD, where he will also face the challenge of fighting off pretenders to the bank's number one domestic position.
NBAD, almost 70-percent owned by Abu Dhabi's government, has the largest market capitalisation and profitability of the 50 local and international banks in the United Arab Emirates.
Like other UAE banks such as Emirates NBD, First Gulf Bank and Union National Bank, it is keen to expand overseas due to stiff competition in the local market.
"It is not going to be easy competing with some peer banks that have adopted an aggressive approach to win business locally as well as abroad, particularly in Asia and the Middle East," said a senior Abu Dhabi banker, who did not want to be named.
In his new role, Thursby succeeds Michael Tomalin whose retirement after 14 years at the helm was announced a year ago. Tomalin will remain in a non-executive director's position.
British-born Thursby was put in charge of ANZ CEO Mike Smith's push for the Australian lender to become a super regional bank in Asia six years ago. ANZ aims to double earnings in Asia to up to 30 percent of its total inside five years.
Thursby was touted as a potential CEO at ANZ last year when Smith was approached by Barclays Plc.
Thursby will face a similar challenge at NBAD, which has turned its focus outward, particularly towards Asia, and wants its international division to contribute 25 percent of operating profit in five years and 40 percent by 2021.
NBAD is already the most international of UAE banks, with operations in 14 nations on four continents. It targets presence in 41 by 2021, mostly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Thursby also has a reputation for conservative risk management, an approach which should fit well at NBAD.
"Its strong board with a conservative approach and low appetite for risk has kept the bank in good hands and I don't see lots of challenges for Thursby apart from just implementing the international expansion," said Tariq Qaqish, head of asset management at Al Mal Capital.
From January 1999 to March 2001, Thursby was chief executive officer, UAE and regional head of corporate banking, Middle East and South Asia at Standard Chartered Plc.
ANZ shares closed down 1.9 percent in Sydney, while NBAD shares were flat on the Abu Dhabi bourse Wednesday.
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