“We are not commenting on the CEO selection process. Mike Baird has made a personal decision and we respect that,” a bank spokeswoman said.
Mr Baird, who runs NAB’s consumer banking business, had been seen as one of a group of potential candidates to replace Mr Thorburn. Among other possible contenders are NAB executives Anthony Healy and Angela Mentis, Medibank chief Craig Drummond, and former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Ross McEwan.
However, the Financial Review reported that Mr Baird had told acting CEO Phil Chronican that the timing was not right for him to spend the necessary time away from Sydney as the leader of Melbourne-based NAB.
While some in the market had viewed Mr Baird as a potential contender to be NAB’s next CEO, others always had their doubts, saying he lacked the operational experience to lead a big four bank.
His decision comes as NAB is getting closer to picking a new CEO, after its reputation took a severe hit at the banking royal commission, including harsh criticism of Mr Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry in commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s final report in February.
NAB has set up a board committee led by independent director Anne Sherry to find a replacement CEO. Acting CEO and future chairman Mr Chronican this week confirmed the lender was moving closer to choosing a new chief. Mr Chronican on Tuesday said the search was going “well” but did not provide a timeframe.
Asked about the types of traits the bank would be looking for in its next leader, Mr Chronican said its future CEO would need an understanding of the community’s concerns about banks, strong leadership skills and operating experience.
“We want somebody who’s mindful of the community environment we’re in, the community concerns that have emanated out of the last couple of years, so the values of the person will be important,” Mr Chronican said at a business lunch on Tuesday.
“It’s important that the person understands what driving performance and change in a large organisation entails, so there is a requirement for a certain level of operating experience,” he said.
“And then there’s the leadership attribute, which is somebody who has the ability to articulate a vision of how the organisation can look in the future and communicate that and mobilise people around it.”