* 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 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.