Emirates NBD's appointment of a senior Standard Chartered banker with Asia experience as its new group chief executive reinforces the trend of Gulf-based banks looking beyond their own region for their next growth phase.
Shayne Nelson, currently based in Singapore as the British-based lender's head of private banking, will assume the top job at Dubai's largest lender when current CEO Rick Pudner leaves at the end of the year.
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ENBD, like other large Gulf banks, is increasingly looking outside its home market to generate revenue and diversify its business in the face of strong competition and limited growth opportunities.
The bank completed its first foreign purchase this month with the acquisition of the Egyptian assets of BNP Paribas and aims to make a fifth of its revenue outside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) within five years. The forthcoming CEO change wouldn't derail ENBD's overseas expansion, Pudner said in April.
"He's done various senior roles across Standard Chartered so would come with strong credentials and a global perspective," said a former colleague of Nelson, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The appointment of Nelson, an Asia-focused banker who has worked in the UAE previously, draws comparisons with the appointment by National Bank of Abu Dhabi of its new chief executive, fellow Australian Alex Thursby.
The neighboring emirate's largest lender is focused on organic growth in the Far East and Thursby led Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's push into Asia over a six-year period before replacing long-standing CEO Michael Tomalin at NBAD. Thursby starts his new role on July 1.
Lenders in other Gulf states have also been expanding their networks outside their home region: Qatar National Bank bought Societe Generale's Egyptian assets, Kuwait's Burgan Bank acquired the Turkish arm of Greece's EFG Eurobank and Commercial Bank of Qatar is buying 71 percent of Turkey's Alternatifbank.
"Banking systems in the Gulf predominantly cater to local populations, which are limited in size (excluding Saudi Arabia), so you could see some of them, particularly in Qatar, being active and doing deals," said Timucin Engin, of Standard & Poor's.
RETURN TO DUBAI
Nelson also has local experience, having been Standard Chartered's regional CEO for the Middle East and North Africa and its UAE chief executive before being tapped to head its private bank in July 2010, his profile on the bank's website said.
"I think he enjoyed his stint in Dubai, so he won't be averse to coming back. Plus ENBD is a high-profile role," the former colleague said.
Nelson's last day at Standard Chartered will be August 9, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
A successor will be named in due course, the memo said, with his private banking responsibility being covered by Judy Hsu, global head of wealth management and priority and international banking.
Nelson was also chairman of the lender's Islamic banking arm, which will be run temporarily by Raheel Ahmed, regional head of consumer banking, Middle East, Pakistan and Africa.
Pudner joined Emirates Bank as chief executive in early 2006. A year later the bank merged with National Bank of Dubai in one of the region's largest tie-ups to form ENBD.
He led ENBD through the latter part of Dubai's economic boom before the emirate was hit by a collapse in its real estate market, forcing its state-linked entities to restructure billions of dollars of debt.
(Additional Reporting by Rachna Uppal; Editing by Dinesh Nair and David Goodman)