* Sager served as Dabdoub's deputy
* Dabdoub transformed NBK, has close ties with Gulf policymakers (Adds background, detail)
KUWAIT Feb 16 (Reuters) - National Bank of Kuwait said on Sunday it had appointed long-serving banker Isam al-Sager as group chief executive, succeeding Ibrahim Dabdoub, who is retiring from the post after three decades.
Sager became CEO of the bank's Kuwait business in 2008 and was promoted to deputy group CEO in 2010. Reuters reported last month that Sager, who joined NBK more than 30 years ago, was the frontrunner to succeed Dabdoub.
Dabdoub has close ties with policymakers in Kuwait and around the Gulf. He transformed NBK from a local lender into one of the Middle East's biggest financial institutions, making the choice of his successor pivotal.
"NBK will continue with its current strategy strengthening its leading position both locally and regionally," the bank said in a statement following its general assembly.
The head of the bank's Kuwait business, Shaikha al-Bahar, has replaced Sager as deputy group CEO, it added.
Dabdoub will remain as a consultant to the board of directors.
The choice of Sager will not be a surprise to Kuwait's banking community; his name had been mentioned privately as early as 2005 as part of succession plans at the bank, Kuwait's largest. (Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Andrew Torchia, John Stonestreet)