National Australia Bank

National Australia Bank (abbreviated NAB, branded nab) is one of the four largest financial institutions in Australia in terms of market capitalisation, earnings and customers.[4] NAB was ranked 21st largest bank in the world measured by market capitalisation[5] and 50th largest bank in the world as measured by total assets in 2014, falling to 49th largest in March 2016.[6] As of November 2014 NAB operated 1,590 branches and service centres; and 4,412 ATMs across Australia, New Zealand and Asia serving 12.7 million customers.[7]

National Australia Bank Limited
Traded asASX: NAB
Industryfinancial services, Finance, banking 
Founded1982 (as National Commercial Banking Corporation of Australia Limited)
Headquarters700 Bourke Street
Docklands, Melbourne, Australia
Area served
Australiandustry = Banking, Financial services
ProductsBusiness banking
Consumer banking
Wholesale banking
Wealth management
Revenue A$ 19.101 billion (2018)[2]
A$ 5.554 billion (2018)[2]
Total assets A$ 806.51 billion (2018)[2]
Number of employees
35,063 (2016)[3]

NAB has a "AA-" long term issuer rating by Standard & Poor's.[7]


Early history

National Australia Bank was formed as National Commercial Banking Corporation of Australia Limited in 1982 by the merger of National Bank of Australasia and the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. The resulting company was subsequently renamed National Australia Bank Limited.[8]

The expanded financial base of the merged entity triggered significant offshore expansion over ensuing years. Representative offices were established in Beijing (1982), Chicago (branch 1982), Dallas (1983), Seoul (1983, upgraded to a branch in 1990), San Francisco (1984), Kuala Lumpur (1984), Athens (1984, closed 1989), Frankfurt (1985, closed 1992), Atlanta (1986), Bangkok (1986), Taipei (1986 upgraded to branch 1990), Shanghai (1988, closed 1990), Houston (1989) and New Delhi (1989).

In 1987, NAB bought Clydesdale Bank (Scotland) and Northern Bank (Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland) from Midland Bank. It rebranded Northern Bank branches in the Republic of Ireland to National Irish Bank and changed both banks' logos from that of the Midland Bank. In 1990, NAB bought Yorkshire Bank (England and Wales).

Further acquisitions followed – Bank of New Zealand in 1992, which at the time had about a 26% market share in the New Zealand market, and Michigan National Bank (MNB) in 1995. NAB had earlier rationalised its operations in the US and closed its offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and San Francisco in 1991.

This period of rapid expansion through acquisition concluded with the purchases in 1997 of HomeSide Lending, a leading US mortgage originator and servicer based in Florida, and most significantly, the acquisition in 2000 of MLC Limited (and related MLC entities) for $4.56bn, one of the biggest mergers in Australian corporate history.

NAB encountered a difficult period in the period 2000–2005. In 2000, NAB sold Michigan National Bank to ABN AMRO, then in 2001 sold HomeSide's operating assets for US$1.9b to Washington Mutual, the largest US savings and loan company, as well as the mortgage unit's loan-servicing technology and operating platform.

Executive changes

The foreign currency trader fraud was the catalyst for the resignations of CEO Frank Cicutto and Chairman Charles Allen.[9] The resignations were preceded by a Board revolt where Catherine Walters emerged as a whistle blower citing serious culture issues at the company having led to the string of failures.[10]

Frank Cicutto was CEO of NAB from 1999 to 2004. The Australian economic environment during his leadership was stable and productive after 17 consecutive years of economic growth since 1992, averaging 3.3 per cent per annum.

In February 2004, John Stewart was appointed CEO of NAB following the sacking of Cicutto.[11] Stewart proceeded with a far reaching re-organisation of the company along regional lines leading to the appointment of Ahmed Fahour as the CEO of Australia in September 2004.[12] On 20 February 2009 Fahour stepped down from the Principal Board and Group Executive Committee.[13]

In 2005, NAB announced a cut of 2,000 Australian jobs as part of a global cost-cutting program with the intention of cutting around 4,200 positions – about 10.5% of its total workforce globally.[14]

It began to outsource back office positions offshore, beginning with a pilot with 23 jobs from the accounts payable department in Melbourne going to Bangalore, India in an agreement with Accenture.[15] Later that year, it sold Northern Bank and National Irish Bank to the Danish Danske Bank. Over 200 additional jobs had been sent offshore by 2006.[16]

As part of the culture change program, a new Australian head office was purpose built at Docklands in Melbourne. This building is characterised by its open plan layout and was officially opened in October 2004.[17][18] After Cameron Clyne became CEO in 2009, the Docklands building became the global headquarters replacing 500 Bourke Street.

By 2006, NAB had turned its fortunes around, reporting an industry record $4.3 billion profit and winning two local Bank of the Year awards. It also had a major reform which included the refurbishment of all of its branches, and the replacement of signage in and around National branches and buildings, being changed from 'National' to 'nab'.

In May 2007 NAB announced that it would delist from the New York Stock Exchange,[19] and this took place in August 2007. NAB delisted from the London and Tokyo exchanges in 2006.

In March 2008 NAB announced that it would send maintenance and support for some core banking applications to India through an offshoring arrangement with Infosys and Satyam, affecting another 260 employees.[20]

On 25 July 2008, NAB's announcement of an additional A$830 million provision associated with deterioration in US real estate markets triggered the biggest single-day fall in its share price in 21 years, wiping over A$7 billion from the stock's value.[21]

Present era

In October 2008, NAB launched a branchless direct bank trading separately as UBank under the leadership of Greg Sutherland and Gerd Schenkel.[22]

In January 2009, Cameron Clyne became CEO,[23] and began a strategy of reputation change, wealth management and a focus on domestic markets.

As part of this strategy, NAB's underweight retail bank – under the leadership of Lisa Gray – attempted to increase market share by competing on price and cutting fees.[24] Initially denting earnings in the division,[25] the strategy produced mixed results over the medium term, with cash earnings, market share and customer satisfaction rising, but operating margin and cost to income ratio worsening since it began in 2009.[26][27]

In line with the strategy, NAB attempted to differentiate itself from the other "Big 4" Australian banks in a large, national public relations campaign centred around a theme of "breaking up" with the other banks on Valentine's Day 2011.[28] The campaign received both a positive[29][30] and negative[31][32] reception. It also attracted swift competitive responses from other major banks.[33] The campaign won an advertising award at Cannes.[34]

In 2009, NAB acquired the mortgage business of Challenger Financial Services for $385 million, in order to boost its market share in the broker channel. The purchase also included the PLAN, Choice, and FAST mortgage aggregation businesses and approximately 17.5% in Homeloans Ltd.[35] In June that year it paid A$825m ($660m:£401m) for UK insurer Aviva's Australian wealth management businesses, including their Navigator platform. NAB beat off competition from AMP for Navigator.[36] In July 2009 NAB acquired an 80% stake in the private wealth management division of Goldman Sachs JBWere, for A$99m.[37]

In December 2009 NAB began a 9-month attempt to purchase Axa Asia Pacific. This attempt was blocked twice by the ACCC. The first time, in April 2010, was because the regulator believed that the merger would cause a substantial lessening of competition in the retail investment platform market. NAB subsequently lodged a revised bid which aimed to address these concerns however, was rejected a second time in September of that year.[38] The Axa deal's drawn out process drew criticism for the bank's underperformance.[39]

NAB's poor 2012 financial results, however, called its strategy into question:[40][41] net profit dropped by 22% compared to the previous year.[42]

In 2014-NAB Melbourne Government announced that Cameron Clyne would be succeeded as CEO by Andrew Thorburn, NAB's New Zealand head.[43] In August 2014, Lisa Gray left NAB as part of a broader set of executive changes.[44]

International demergers

As part of a strategy to focus NAB on its domestic markets,[45] the bank listed its US subsidiary Great Western Bank subsidiary on the New York Stock Exchange in October 2014 as part of an initial public offering.[46] NAB sold its final 28.5% holding in Great Western in July 2015.[47]

In May 2015, NAB also confirmed it would demerge its Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank business in the UK, through an initial public offering.[48] The business was partially floated on the London Stock Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange under a new holding company, CYBG plc, in February 2016, with the remaining shares distributed to NAB's shareholders.[49]

Corporate affairs

Chief Executives

The following individuals have been appointed to serve as chief executive:

#NameTitleTerm startTerm endRef
1Jack BoothChief Executive Officer and Managing Director1 January 19831985 (1985)[50]
Vic Martin1 January 19831983 (1983)[51]
2Nobby Clark1985 (1985)1990 (1990)
3Don Argus AO1991 (1991)1999 (1999)
4Frank Cicutto1999 (1999)September 2004 (2004-09)
5John StewartSeptember 2004 (2004-09)31 December 2008
6Cameron Clyne1 January 2009August 2014 (2014-08)[52]
7Andrew ThorburnAugust 2014 (2014-08)February 2019[53]
8Philip ChronicanFrom 1 March 2019incumbent[54]


The following individuals have been appointed to serve as Chairman of the board:

#NameTitleTerm startTerm endRef
1Sir Robert Law-Smith CBE AFCChairman of the Board1 January 19831986[55][56]
2Sir Rupert Clarke1986January 1992
3Bill Irvine OAMJanuary 1992September 1997[57]
4Mark RaynerSeptember 19972001
5Charles Allen AO2001February 2004
6Graham Kraehe AOFebruary 2004September 2005
7Michael Chaney AOSeptember 2005December 2015
8Ken Henry ACDecember 2015July 2019[58]
9 Ross McEwan July 2019 incumbent


The National Australia Bank Group is organised into eight divisions, spread across two geographic regions.

Business Banking
  • Australia's largest business bank (by assets)[59]
  • Employees: 5,427
  • ~700,000 clients
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$2.4bn[60]
Personal Banking
  • Australia's fourth largest retail bank
  • Employees: 8,706
  • ~3,000,000 customers (~100,000 UBank customers)
  • Brands include: NAB Retail, UBank, Homeside and Advantedge
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$932m[60]
  • An internet centric direct bank
  • ~A$15bn deposits
  • ~100,000 customers
MLC & NAB Private Wealth
  • 5,909 employees
  • Investment, superannuation, insurance and private wealth solutions to individual investors and corporate customers
  • Brands include: MLC, JBWere, Navigator, Plum, JANA, NAB Private Wealth
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$533m[60]
New Zealand NZ Banking
  • Bank of New Zealand
  • Retail, business and agribusiness banking and insurance services
  • Employees: 4,641
  • ~1 million customers
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$469m[60]
Wholesale Banking
Specialised Group Assets
  • Bad bank containing approximately A$15 billion of exposures including CDOs and high yield debt
  • Created in aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis
  • Aim for orderly wind down of assets over time
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$110m[60]
Corporate Functions and Other
  • Includes the Group's operations in Asia, as well as Group Funding and other service functions
  • 2011 cash earnings: A$159m[60]


NAB is a large user of the Siebel and Teradata CRM systems.[61][62] While NAB has received recognition as an early adopter and leader in CRM (Customer Relationship Management)[63] the system was reinvigorated in 2004/5 as part of the broader turnaround to support the new focus on cross-selling.[64][65]

In 2006, NAB was named the winner of the IFS/Cap Gemini Financial Innovation awards for its CRM system, internally called "National Leads".[66]

On 25 November 2010, NAB suffered a system malfunction resulting in the failure of accounts processing.[67] As a result, around 60,000 banking transactions were lost, and had to be manually recovered.[67] The malfunction was caused by a corruption of an irreplaceable system file.[67] This issue has been dubbed by some commentators as one of the biggest failures in the history of the Australian banking system.[68]

Under Cameron Clyne's leadership, NAB began to upgrade its core banking platform in a project dubbed "NextGen". The project involves the replacement of its legacy systems which are up to 40 years old with an Oracle-based solution.[69] UBank was reported to be the first beneficiary of this project.[70][71] In total, the project was expected to be completed in 2014 and cost $1 billion.[72]

As of April 2014, NAB's "NextGen" program was said to suffer from "growing problems".[73]

Corporate responsibility

In 2008, NAB invested $33.5 million in corporate responsibility initiatives. Its target is to spend 1% of cash earnings before tax in this area.[74] In 2009, NAB became the largest Fairtrade accredited workplace in Australia through purchasing Fairtrade tea, coffee and hot chocolate for their offices and retail branches.[75] In March 2010 NAB stated it expected to save nearly $1 million in annual power costs from a $6.5 million tri-generation plant at its main data centre.[76] NAB became one of Australia's largest carbon neutral companies in September 2010.[77] NAB ranked equal first among financial service companies in the Global 500 companies in the 2010 Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.[78]

Sponsorship and scholarships

During this period, NAB emerged as a major sponsor of Australian rules football, both at grassroots and elite level. It supports Auskick, an initiative to improve young footballers, as well as the NAB Cup (an Australian Football League pre-season competition), the NAB AFL Rising Star award; and the AFL National Draft. Other significant sporting sponsorships included the Socceroos, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and was the main shirt sponsor of the South Sydney Rabbitohs between 2008 and 2010.[79]

Support is also given towards community group volunteers around Australia. In recent years, NAB has provided financial support and relief to drought affected farmers and helped in the clean-up of flood affected in Queensland and Victoria. NAB has also sponsored the Sheikh Fehmi El-Imam Scholarship, designed to help strengthen the links between NAB and the Muslim community and enables an undergraduate student to continue post-graduate studies in finance and economics.[80]

The National Australia Bank is the AFL Women's current and inaugural naming rights partner.[79]


Foreign currency trader staff fraud

In 2004, NAB discovered that as a result of unauthorised spot trades on its foreign currency options desk, losses totalling A$360 million had been covered up. Investigations by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority highlighted a need for cultural change. The losses were a result of a failed speculative position where the traders falsified profits to trigger bonuses over a number of years. In order to actually generate the reported profits, the traders speculated on the US dollar, betting that it would rise against the Australian dollar and other currencies. In 2006, two former NAB foreign currency options traders were sentenced on charges brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and incurred jail terms.[81]

Financial planner misconduct

Acting on a customer complaint, an Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) investigation found that between 1997 and 2001, a NAB financial products seller, Paul Drakos, working out of a northern Sydney branch at Hornsby made recommendations to a number of NAB clients, mostly retirees, to invest in BSI Corp,[82] an entity based in the Bahamas which was not a NAB approved investment product. According to ASIC, at least $6.2m was subsequently transferred from the overseas accounts in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic back to a private company account, held for Strategic Investments Group ACN 080 924 036 and controlled by a single director, the same Paul Drakos. Funds were then applied from this account as loans disguised as investments to a number of failed business opportunities among his familial associates including a golf driving range on the Central Coast of NSW, a plumbing business, and futures and commodities trading. The land holdings, as inflated securities,[83] were also used by the failed Allco Hit.[84] The NAB employee was not officially connected with BSI but gave instructions to agents based in Canada to arrange for the transfer of funds back to Strategic Investments Group and other accounts. On 29 May 2006 the NAB employee pleaded guilty to 8 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception, 2 counts of fraudulent misappropriation and 3 counts of making and using false documents. There is also a connection, not yet pursued by ASIC, to the collapse of the Allco HIT Ltd and Strategic Finances where it is suspected that the swampland was used to underpin financial dealings. During the time of the investigations the NAB provided the perpetrator of the fraud with a loan of $350,000 secured by swampland on the Central Coast of NSW.[85]

Tax evasion and customer overcharging in Ireland

The Irish subsidiary of the bank, National Irish Bank was the subject of a six-year Inquiry carried out by Inspectors appointed by the Irish High Court. They established that National Irish Bank had engaged in overcharging its own customers and tax evasion schemes prior to 1998.[86] Mr Justice Peter Kelly, an Irish High Court judge commented following publication of the Report "The edifice of banking is built on a foundation of trust. On the Inspectors findings there was a breach of trust. The operation was carried out over a period of years in a deliberate fashion".[87] The Director of Corporate Enforcement subsequently applied to the High Court to have 9 senior managers barred from being an officer of any company.[88]

HomeSide write-downs

NAB booked two write-downs associated with HomeSide. First, in July 2001, NAB had a $450 million write down of the value of its capitalised mortgage servicing rights (CMSRs) during the quarter ending 30 June 2001, and was the result of exceptionally high mortgage refinance volumes which lowered the value of the CMSRs, combined with a more challenging capital markets environment in which to hedge interest rate risk.[89] This was followed shortly by a second write-down reported in September totalling $1.75 billion; this second write-down consisted of US$400 million from an incorrect interest rate assumption embedded in the mortgage servicing rights valuation model, US$760 million from changed assumptions in the model flowing from the continued unprecedented uncertainty and turbulence in the mortgage servicing market, and US$590 million from writing off of the goodwill. In total, NAB booked $2.2 billion in losses due to HomeSide.

As a result of all these events, NAB's Australian shareholders attempted to sue it in the United States for securities fraud, even though the plaintiffs, the defendant, and the actual securities at issue (NAB's shares) were all located in Australia. (The main advantage of suing in the U.S. arises from Basic Inc. v. Levinson (1988), under which it is presumed that the defendant committed "fraud-on-the-market" unless the defendant proves otherwise.) The case of Morrison v. National Australia Bank Ltd ultimately ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in a unanimous 8–0 decision on 24 June 2010 that U.S. law against securities fraud does not apply to securities deals occurring outside of the country.

Financed fossil fuel businesses

It has been estimated that since 2008, NAB has loaned A$11.2 billion to the fossil fuel industry in Australia, positioning itself as the 3rd largest lender in this regard. Comparatively, loans to renewable energy are estimated at A$2.2 billion over the same period, or approximately 20% of the amount to fossil fuels.[90] The Big Four Australian banks, of which NAB is part, are estimated to have provided approximately one third of all loans to the fossil fuel industry in Australia since 2008.[91] Financed emissions count toward a company's Scope 3 emissions under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

Concerns that this finance is significant to Australia's contribution to global warming has led to various responses from the Australian community. These include the creation of 'fossil fuel-free' superannuation and investment products which exclude NAB from the investment universe.[92][93] Shareholders of the bank engage NAB, often at the annual general meeting, asking for greater emissions disclosure and reduced finance for fossil fuels.[4][5][59][94][95] Protest groups have also covered ATM screens to raise awareness regarding fear of environmental degradation of the Great Barrier Reef.[96] Additionally, some NAB customers have moved their money to banks with a lesser financed emissions portfolio.[97][98]

In early September 2015, reports circulated that NAB had ruled out finance for the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine, which would be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world.[8][99]

Hayne Royal Commission

A royal commission was established on in December 2017 to inquire into and report on misconduct in the banking, superannuation, and financial services industry. The establishment of the commission followed revelations in the media of a culture of greed within several Australian financial institutions.[100] A subsequent parliamentary inquiry recommended a royal commission, noting the lack of regulatory intervention by the relevant government authorities,[101]and later revelations that financial institutions were involved in money laundering for drug syndicates, turned a blind eye to terrorism financing, and ignored statutory reporting responsibilities[102] and impropriety in foreign exchange trading.[103]

During the Royal Commission, it was revealed that NAB subsidiary, MLC Limited, had charged some of its customers "adviser contribution fees" and "employer service fees" on its superannuation products. By its own admission, NAB executives told the Royal Commission that the customers may have not received any service, in spite of being charge a fee. NAB tried to disguise these fees as commissions.[104] The following month ASIC commenced civil proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that NAB-owned superannuation entities had deducted $100 million in fees from more than 300,000 customers where services were not provided.[105] Appearing before the Royal Commission in November 2018, NAB Chef Executive Officer Andrew Thorburn defended the fees-for-no-service issue as a “process issue” rather than dishonesty.[106] Days earlier, NAB Chairman and former Secretary of The Treasury Ken Henry defensively appeared before the Royal Commission, with some tense exchanges between Henry and legal counsel Rowena Orr.[107][108][109][110]

See also


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