Thursby spins NBAD’s world view

Chris Wright
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Alex Thursby learnt his trade at StanChart and ANZ, but it’s to Asia’s regional champions that he looks for inspiration in his new role as CEO of National Bank of Abu Dhabi. Clients come first, but his big plan is a bold one: to put NBAD at the centre of where east meets west.

The last time Euromoney caught up with Alex Thursby, he was spearheading ANZ’s expansion into Asia and was in a strident frame of mind. "We’re noisy people," he said then. "Certainly a straight-shooting bunch."

Four years on, we find Thursby in a quite different role and, if somewhat less noisy in a new environment, no less driven in ambition. As chief executive of National Bank of Abu Dhabi, he is in a role with different sensitivities – running a mainly state-owned bank, ultimately held by the Emirate’s royal family, in the politically nuanced world of the Gulf – but equally bold in what it wants to do regionally.

Along the way, his role models have changed. Back at ANZ, Thursby and his then boss, Mike Smith, were great believers in the model exemplified by their former employers, Standard Chartered and HSBC respectively: on-the-ground presence, in-country, with a large part of the business based on transactional work, which might not be as sexy as investment banking but which follows the patterns of emerging market trade.