Thursby Exit Won’t Derail Asian Growth Strategy, ANZ Says

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. said the departure of Alex Thursby, who spearheaded an Asian expansion, won’t alter its growth plans in the region.

“We have the pedal pressed to the ground,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Smith said in a telephone interview today. “Nothing has changed in terms of strategy. We have the bench strength and the transition will be seamless.”

Thursby, 53, served as head of international and institutional banking at ANZ and will leave at the end of the month, the Australian lender said in a regulatory filing. National Bank of Abu Dhabi today named Thursby as CEO, succeeding Michael Tomalin, who is retiring after 14 years.

ANZ, Australia’s third-biggest bank by market value, has the nation’s most aggressive expansion plans in Asia, seeking as much as 30 percent of profits from outside its domestic market and New Zealand by 2017. The lender said it will consider internal and external candidates to replace Thursby.

“ANZ is pretty well connected in Asia now and can easily attract candidates,” said Chris Hall, an Adelaide-based senior investment officer at fund manager Argo Investments Ltd. “I don’t think it will hurt their Asian plans.”

Shares of ANZ fell 1.9 percent in Sydney to A$28.27, the lowest closing price since March 21. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slid 0.6 percent.

Earnings from ANZ’s overseas units increased threefold since 2007, the year Thursby joined, the Melbourne-based bank said in December. The businesses provided 16 percent of earnings in the last financial year, filings show.

CEO Aspirations

Thursby gets to head a bank, a role he has wanted, Smith said in the interview.

Argo’s Hall said Thursby was seen as having aspirations to lead ANZ when Smith, who joined the bank in 2007, steps down.

“Alex Thursby has been one of ANZ’s most senior and highly regarded executives,” Stephen Ries, a Melbourne-based spokesman, said by e-mail. “His decision to leave ANZ is a personal one.”

Gilles Plante, CEO for Asia-Pacific, and Steve Bellotti, managing director for global markets and loans, will take over Thursby’s duties on an interim basis from May 1, ANZ said.

Thursby will join National Bank of Abu Dhabi on July 1. Tomalin will serve as a non-executive director to support the transition, the United Arab Emirates’ second-biggest lender by assets said in an e-mailed statement today.

Thursby spent 20 years at Standard Chartered Plc before joining ANZ as Group Managing Director of Asia Pacific. He took responsibility for the bank’s European and American businesses in October 2008 and was given the international and institutional banking role in March last year, according to ANZ’s website.

He served as Standard Chartered’s CEO of the United Arab Emirates between 1999 and 2001, according to ANZ’s website.

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