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Is this former politician the man to lead NAB?

All eyes on Mike Baird.

Jack Derwin

Digital Journalist, Your Money

After the spectacular departure of embattled NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn, speculation is rife that Mike Baird could claim the top job at the bank.

As the former premier, Baird remains a household name in New South Wales and now appears the frontrunner among NAB executives to replace interim CEO Philip Chronican.

A street mural featuring Mike Baird in Chippendale, Sydney. Artist Scott Marsh has depicted the former NSW premier as ‘Casino Mike’. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Baird’s time at the top of state politics saw him become a politically divisive figure, overseeing the implementation of Sydney’s lockout laws that were designed to limit alcohol-fuelled violence in parts of the city.

While those restrictions prevent revellers access to venues and alcohol at certain hours within large swathes of the city, two key areas were notably exempt: The Star Casino in Pyrmont and the site for James Packer’s future Crown Casino.

That apparent double standard was enough to earn him the public moniker ‘Casino Mike’, a label Baird’s opponents have embraced ever since.

Baird resigned from politics in January 2017 while still premier, making way for current premier Gladys Berejiklian, in a move he said was motivated by the desire to spend more time with his family.

Just five weeks after leaving office, however, he had already returned to his pre-politics banking career, accepted a new job with NAB as chief customer officer of corporate and institutional banking.

Despite speculation, Baird’s ascension to the top job at NAB is anything but assured, analyst Elio D’Amato told Your Money Live.

“I couldn’t imagine anything worse, to be honest,” the CEO of research house Lincoln Indicators said.

“Notwithstanding that Mike Baird might very well one day prove to be a chief executive and very successful, there is a long way to go in his own career development, particularly in an industry which is so multi-faceted [and] has so many different complexities,” he explained.

“If that was to eventuate I think you’d find analysts would take an exceptionally hard stance on that, particularly given that we’ve got some great bankers out there.”

The view that Baird’s limited experience might see him made to wait for his turn is shared by Your Money chief business reporter Leo Shanahan.

Watch Ticky Fullerton and Leo Shanahan discuss all the news from NAB above.

“In this context, it’s not a surprise that they didn’t put Baird in because Chronican has the experience… [and] perhaps he could be in the job bank long-term” Shanahan suggested.

“It could still be Mike Baird it should be said, but I think they risk burning Mike Baird, a potentially very good CEO in the future, in this wholly defensive position with this proverbial storm coming down on them,” he explained.

“Mike Baird still doesn’t have a lot of retail bank experience or major bank experience. He has institutional experience but not at a major bank and he hasn’t been in this position for very long, only [being] the head of the retail bank for four or five months.”

NAB’s insistence that it will conduct “a global search” for a chief executive is also likely to be made difficult, according to Your Money presenter Ticky Fullerton

“If you were in the international market, how attractive would it be to come into NAB?” Fullerton said.

“At a time when Labor, if it comes in, is going to demand that your salary is declared in terms of multiples of the median employee salary, there will be a very careful look at the amount that any top CEO is paid.”

In that case, an internal appointment looks more likely with plenty of candidates already inside the NAB ranks with more experience than Baird.

“The odds are probably on an internal appointment or someone who is experienced in the role but is not currently employed in a similar role,” D’Amato said.

As for Mike Baird, his rise to the top might be a few years away yet.

“He needs some more runs on the board.”

Read more: NAB sends chairman and CEO packing
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