ANZ looks for successor with new Asia boss

ANZ will soon make a critical appointment that could signal a potential successor to chief executive Michael Smith, pictured, when it names the next head of its Asian and international arm.

ANZ will soon make a critical appointment that could signal a potential successor to chief executive Michael Smith, pictured, when it names the next head of its Asian and international arm.

After previous Asia boss Alex Thursby resigned from ANZ this month, the bank has been looking for a new head of its international and institutional banking division, with an announcement expected in the coming weeks.

As the bank seeks to expand into Asia, it is tipped by analysts to appoint an external candidate to replace Mr Thursby, who has taken up the role as boss of National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

Given ANZ's emphasis on Asia, analysts say whoever gets the job will also be considered as a potential next chief executive of the entire group.

Mr Smith, who previously ran the Asian arm of global giant HSBC, has signalled he intends to stay on as chief executive for another two to three years.

While the bank has considered internal candidates to replace Mr Thursby, an outsider from a large western bank with a heavy Asian presence, such as Standard Chartered Bank or HSBC, is considered a more likely replacement.

Macquarie analyst Mike Wiblin said: "If it was going to be someone external it might be someone who is more chairman-like, given the Asian strategy is already well developed." .

Unlike its domestic rivals, ANZ has an explicit goal of obtaining 25 to 30 per cent of income from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and America by 2017.

Bell Potter analyst TS Lim said an outsider was more likely because the bank would need someone with top-level connections in government and business in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Asian banking is relationship banking, so they'll want someone who has been there and done business for a long time," Mr Lim said.

"Things get done with a handshake some times. This is what HSBC and Standard Chartered are good at."

Mr Smith has also fuelled expectations of an external appointment by saying it may "poach" a banker and describing himself and Mr Thursby, a former Standard Chartered banker, as "Asian insiders." Three weeks ago Mr Smith also said he hoped to announce the appointment in "a few weeks time."

The current executives filling Mr Thursby's role, head of Asia Gilles Plante and markets boss Steve Bellotti, are also well-regarded in the market.

Irrespective of who gets the Asia job, chief financial officer Shayne Elliott is also considered a potential next chief executive, alongside Australian boss Phil Chronican.

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