x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

NBAD chief wants to awaken a sleeping giant

Bank is planning a major push to boost its branch business in a bid to catapult the lender to the top ranks of retail banking.

Alex Thursby, CEO of National Bank of Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National
Alex Thursby, CEO of National Bank of Abu Dhabi. Mona Al-Marzooqi/ The National

National Bank of Abu Dhabi is planning a major push to boost its branch business in a bid to catapult the lender to the top ranks of retail banking.

That would involve “significant” investments to rebrand its branches and offer better e-banking services to its customers in the UAE over the next two years, said the chief executive Alex Thursby in an interview yesterday.

“We really want to assert ourselves in the retail space in the next three to four years,” he said. “We’re a good player but we’re not an outstanding player. We’re number five. I want to be higher than that. I think we can do a better job in the Arab expatriate segment. I think we can do a better job in the UAE national segment and I think to an extent the non-resident Indian segment.”

The bank, the largest by assets in the UAE, will rebrand 17 branches in the country next year in a bid to make them focus more on sales and services and less on bank-telling activities. To that end, NBAD is also revamping its e-banking platform, which Mr Thursby said still had a 1990s feel. It will roll out smartphone and tablet apps by the third or fourth quarter of 2014, he said.

“One of the other things that we’ll start to do next year is to get our retail e-channel, smartphone proposition right,” Mr Thursby said. “We are behind the market if you compare us to HSBC but I do think you have to balance this. It’s not about the destruction of the branch network. The branches will become much more sales-orientated, settling things like mortgage.”

The bank has been considered by some as a sleeping giant in the field of consumer banking, where competition has stiffened.

Offering banking services to affluent customers has become more attractive than the yields garnered from lending to corporations, where the volumes are bigger but the margins thinner.

Mr Thursby, who was appointed chief executive this year, wants to streamline the lender by focusing on growing the retail businesses at home and in a few other emerging markets as well as going after a US$137 billion corporate banking market in a corridor that spans Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Under a five-year strategy, NBAD will divide itself into three core businesses of global wholesale, global wealth and retail and commercial operations in the Arabian Gulf. It will also cut back on some existing activities and focus on bolstering the parts of its retail and wholesale business that will generate the most profits.

mkassem@thenational.ae