NAB chief brings in new top managers

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John Stewart, the former Barclays executive brought in earlier this year to turn around National Australia Bank, has moved to strengthen his top team with the appointment of a new chief financial officer and a head of the group?s domestic operations.

The Melbourne-based group, which owns four banks in the UK and Ireland including Clydesdale, said on Wednesday that Ahmed Fahour, the former head of Citigroup?s Australasian operations, would take on the new role of head of Australia.

The 37-year-old former management consultant will have responsibility for bringing together NAB?s local financial services, institutional banking and wealth management operations.

Mr Fahour, who was educated in Melbourne, had held the top job at Citigroup, which he joined in 2000, for just six months.

?We have decided to move to a regional business model,? Mr Stewart said. ?This will enable us to improve integration across divisions and build an improved offer to our customers.?

The bank also said Michael Ullmer, a well-regarded former Commonwealth Bank of Australia executive, would become CFO from September. Mr Ullmer, an accountant who emigrated to Australia from the UK in the 1970s, replaces Richard McKinnon who announced in April he would be taking early retirement.

Mr McKinnon was one of several top executives to resign or leave the bank following one of the most difficult periods in NAB?s history. The bank, Australia?s largest, was hit in January by a rogue trading scandal and was then engulfed by a bitter and public boardroom battle that dragged on until May. Its problems culminated with a profits warning last month.

Analysts welcomed the two appointments, the most important Mr Stewart, a former deputy chief executive of Barclays, has made since becoming NAB?s chief executive in February. Both Mr Fahour and Mr Ullmer will also join the NAB board.

Brian Johnson, banking analyst at JP Morgan in Sydney, said that while NAB still had several other positions to fill, the appointments removed some of the uncertainty regarding the bank and also represented succession planning for the first time.

Mr Stewart regards his main job as restructuring and rebuilding the bank and has suggested he would remain CEO for no more than five years, a shorter tenure than would be typical at Australia?s big four banks.

The shares rose 31 cents to A$26.43.

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