In what came as a surprise to the market, Cameron Clyne, Group CEO and Managing Director of National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB), has today announced his retirement from the position that he has served since 2009.
While the 46-year-old acknowledged that serving the more than 42,000 NAB employees over his tenure had been the most rewarding role of his life, he also cited the personal toll the job had taken from him and said: “I am leaving to spend some much-needed time with my young family. I am proud that I leave NAB as a strong, customer-focused bank.”
Mr. Clyne’s five years in the job were certainly no easy task. He entered into the job in the midst of the global financial crisis and the bank’s earnings have been dragged down by its troubled UK divisions which have caused it to lag behind its major competitors, namely Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ASX: ANZ).
After the recent closure of 28 “unsustainable” branches in the UK, it is widely believed that the bank will offload its UK operations altogether should a reasonable bid be made for them. It is said to want around £2.4 billion in total for the businesses.
Quite obviously, “the family” excuse is quite often used when a CEO is encouraged out of his or her job, and the market may speculate this was the case. However, Morningstar analyst David Ellis believes that the reason was legitimate and that Clyne had done well to “right the ship”.
Clyne will be replaced on August 1 by Bank of New Zealand boss Andrew Thorburn. Bank of New Zealand is wholly owned by NAB while Thorburn also used to head NAB’s retail banking. The bank’s shares have fallen 20c or 0.6% in late trading.
The introduction of a new CEO can always introduce new risks into a company, but it can also create new opportunities and strategies – perhaps we could see NAB make more of a push into Asia like ANZ? Thorburn has been described as an ‘outstanding banking executive’ who has done a “superb job of leading Bank of New Zealand since 2008.”