ANZ still ponders candidates for Asia chief

ANZ is understood to have gone back to the drawing board as it continues the search for a replacement for the architect of its Asian banking strategy, Alex Thursby.

ANZ is understood to have gone back to the drawing board as it continues the search for a replacement for the architect of its Asian banking strategy, Alex Thursby.

The bank has delayed the naming of a replacement for Mr Thursby as it continues to weigh up candidates for the critical role.

Those so far considered for Mr Thursby's former job as head of international and institutional banking are said to include Citibank's head of global family office group Catherine Weir who, it is believed, is no longer a contender.

Ms Weir, a 20-year Citibank veteran and a one-time boss of the bank's Singapore business, previously headed the US bank's south-east Asian markets and banking. Now based in Switzerland, she leads a group that specialises in financial services for rich families.

Mr Thursby's position has been vacant since the end of April, when he left to take up the top job at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

Since then the responsibility has been shared between chief executive of Asia Pacific Gilles Plante and managing director of global markets Steve Bellotti.

An ANZ spokesman declined to comment on any contenders for the job.

"We have looked at many potential candidates in recent months as part of the search process internally, in Australia and globally," the ANZ spokesman said.

"We expect to make an announcement about Mr Thursby's permanent replacement later this year. In the meantime, Gilles Plante and Steve Bellotti are continuing to lead the institutional and international banking division."

Ms Weir did not respond to requests for comment.

At the time of Mr Thursby's exit in April, ANZ chief executive Mike Smith said he had hoped to announce the appointment in a few weeks.

As ANZ seeks to expand aggressively into Asia, it is tipped by analysts to appoint an external candidate to replace Mr Thursby. Given ANZ's heavy emphasis on Asia, analysts say, whoever gets the job will also be seen as a potential next chief executive of the entire group. Mr Smith, who previously ran the Asian arm of global bank HSBC, has signalled he intends to stay on as chief executive for 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, Citigroup, or HSBC, is seen as more likely.

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

Among top-level changes in the nation's big banks in recent weeks was National Australia Bank's appointment of veteran investment banker Craig Drummond as its next chief of finance and strategy.

The move puts Mr Drummond in the mix as a potential successor to NAB boss Cameron Clyne and is seen by some as signalling NAB's intention to expand its wealth management and institutional banking.

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