NAB names its next CEO

Andrew Irvine NAB CEO

Andrew Irvine, National Australia Bank’s (NAB’s) business and private banking head, will step up to lead the group, the firm announced today.

Irvine will succeed NAB’s current CEO and managing director Ross McEwan in early April 2024, after McEwan declared his intention to retire from his executive roles.

Irvine, a British-Canadian dual citizen, was appointed NAB’s head of business and private banking in mid-2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, joining Australia’s premier business bank from Canadian mainstay the Bank of Montreal (BMO).

Recognised as a strong performer from the bank’s strongest division, Irvine is widely regarded as a natural successor to McEwan.

The health of NAB’s business banking arm has no doubt boosted Irvine’s credentials. In the three years to September 2023 – covering Irvine’s tenure – NAB’s small and medium-sized business loan book has grown by nearly a third, sitting at just over $143 billion.

Measured on its loan book, NAB maintains the largest share of Australia’s business lending market, capturing nearly 22 per cent of the market.

NAB chair Philip Chronican welcomed Irvine “as well suited to take NAB into its next chapter of growth and performance for our customers, colleagues and the communities we serve”.

“His expertise in digitisation, transformation and modernising has created significant benefits for how our bank operates. He has made work simpler and easier for colleagues by deeply understanding their needs.”

Before joining NAB, Irvine was head of Canadian business banking at BMO, Canada’s oldest and one of the country’s largest financial institutions. Over a more than 12-year tenure at BMO, he also held a range of senior positions, including head of business banking and head of personal banking, and counts McKinsey & Company, Lycos Europe and Credit Agricole as former employers.

In addition to his role as NAB chief, Irvine will assume the position of Australian Banking Association chair from McEwan on behalf of NAB, which accepted chair bank responsibilities for two years from December 2023.

Commenting on his promotion, Irvine said he had “learned a great deal” from his boss, Ross McEwan, across his four-year tenure as chief executive.

“NAB is on the right trajectory to being a better bank and I will work with my colleagues to continue executing our strategic ambitions,” Irvine said.

“I am very mindful of the responsibility of taking what has been built and continuing to grow our positive impact. This should benefit customers, colleagues and shareholders alike.”

Speaking to reporters this morning, Irvine said the bank can expect a steady pair of hands on the wheel, without “any major pivots in terms of what we plan on doing going forward”.

Investors appear to be echoing the ‘steady hands’ sentiment, with NAB’s share price holding relatively steady – currently down just 0.31% (as at 12pm) on yesterday’s closing price of $32.14 – after a momentary drop to $31.76 a share at 10 am this morning.

Outgoing NAB chief Ross McEwan, who has served in the role since mid-2019, was praised for righting the ship after the tumult of the post-Hayne Royal Commission, which resulted in the swift departures of NAB’s former chief executive Andrew Thorburn and chair Ken Henry in 2019.

“Ross has been exactly the CEO we needed,” NAB chair Chronican said. “He came in at a critical time with significant international experience and expertise.”

Chronican added: “He reminded us of the value of getting the basics right, simplification and exceeding customer expectations. It was particularly pleasing that Ross has been able to foster internal talent to enable us to make this appointment from within the bank.”

Originally from New Zealand, McEwan joined NAB from the then Royal Bank of Scotland (a subsidiary of NatWest Group) where he also served as chief executive. Previously CBA’s head of retail banking, McEwan narrowly missed out on succeeding Ian Nerev as chief executive, with current CBA chief Matt Comyn taking the role.

“[McEwan] has rightly been recognised as a tremendous and reliable career banker. He has been a stabilising force for NAB and the industry and we wish him well for the future,” Chronican concluded.

McEwan, commenting on Irvine’s appointment, said he was delighted to see the business and private banking chief step up to lead the bank.

“Andrew is a highly capable, internationally experienced banker who brings the right lens to us wanting to be Australia’s best relationship-driven bank,” he said.

A decision on Irvine’s successor as group executive business and private banking chief will be made “in due course”, the bank said.