* Head of Bank of NZ unit Andrew Thorburn to take over
* Clyne to quit executive life, spend time with family
* NAB has underperformed rivals in Clyne's 5-yr tenure
(Adds quotes, detail on earnings, share performance)
SYDNEY, April 3 Cameron Clyne, the chief
executive of National Australia Bank Ltd, announced his
surprise retirement on Thursday, giving way to the head of the
group's New Zealand operations, Andrew Thorburn.
NAB is the largest of Australia's "Big Four" banks by assets
but the smallest by market capitalisation and while it has
enjoyed strong earnings and share growth, it has underperformed
its rivals since Clyne, 46, took over the reins five years ago.
Thorburn, a former executive at rival Commonwealth Bank of
Australia who joined NAB in 2005, will take over when
Clyne steps down on Aug. 1, NAB Chairman Michael Chaney said in
"Cameron took over as CEO during the global financial crisis
and developed an effective strategy to steer the bank through a
challenging period during which it has undergone significant
cultural and structural change," Chaney said.
NAB and its rivals - CBA, Australia and New Zealand Banking
Group and Westpac Banking Corp - all
negotiated the crisis much better than most of their global
rivals, helped by a focus on plain vanilla mortgages and
But NAB's profits have lagged its peers due largely to its
poorly performing UK operations.
Clyne said the job had taken a personal toll and it was time
to retire from executive life.
"I am leaving to spend some much-needed time with my young
family," Clyne said.
Thorburn, a 27-year banking veteran, has boosted Bank of New
Zealand's cash earnings by more than 40 percent since he took
over in 2008, Chaney said.
NAB posted a record first quarter cash profit of A$1.55
billion ($1.43 billion) for the three months to Dec. 31, helped
by a fall in bad and doubtful debts.
NAB shares have gained about two-thirds in five years,
lagging a more than doubling by CBA and ANZ and a 75 percent
rise by Westpac.
($1 = 1.0822 Australian Dollars)
(Reporting by Lincoln Feast, editing by Dean Yates)