Nauman Ansari succeeds Atif Bajwa as CEO Bank Alfalah

Bajwa had recently submitted his resignation despite an extension in contract, raising certain doubts.

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LAHORE

The Board of Directors of Bank Alfalah Limited have accepted the resignation of Atif Bajwa from the office of President and CEO of the Bank, said an internal communication.

Former CEO Faysal Bank Nauman Ansari has been appointed as his successor. The communication said that Atif, who held the office of President and CEO for over five years, will be stepping down for personal reasons.

However, what makes the resignation look intriguing is the fact that only recently Atif Bajwa’s contract had been extended for another five years. Also waving goodbye to a job that made one the second most highly paid in the banking sector, adding to one’s account nearly a million US dollars a year in 2016 [in rupee terms, just under Rs100 million per annum], at a whim, is not the seemingly done thing.

Bajwa’s position as president, CEO and executive director of Alfalah will be occupied by Nauman Ansari who himself left the top position at Faysal Bank, after he completed his tenure there and apparently did not accept the extension that was offered.

Bank Alfalah’s founding pair of brothers and confidants of the ruler of Abu Dhabi, the then CEO of the Abu Dhabi Group Bashir Tahir, and the top man for all the group’s projects in Pakistan Pervaiz Shahid, had between them given the bank a solid start. With Adil Rashid as head of consumer banking, the decision to waive off all sorts of fees on credit cards by the then management of Bank Alfalah can rightly be credited with bringing the credit card revolution to Pakistan.

However, the founding brothers’ abrupt departure after the controversial falling out with the Abu Dhabi Sheikhs meant that the bank was forced to graduate from essentially a successful family run ‘seth’ model to a professionally run outfit. The initial choice was senior banker Sirajuddin Aziz but soon after in Oct. 2011 Atif Bajwa was given the charge.

During Bajwa’s tenure, Bank Alfalah transformed and expanded its network and operations, and received consistent upward ratings. The Bank also made significant improvements in its balance sheet and performance ratios.

Under the guidance of the Board, the Bank saw remarkable growth in market value and profitability and is seen as financially healthy and stable.

Having spent three decades in banking, in the process serving with some of the topnotch corporates in the sector, Atif Bajwa literally lifted Bank Alfalah from its shoe straps after he became its CEO and President in October/November 2011 and transformed it into a leading wholly private sector bank, by adding many new services and upgrading the existing ones, not to mention giving the brand a dazzling new look and brighter image.

The recovery and rejuvenation, considering the doldrums that Bank Alfalah was in, was indeed amazing.

Tottering at well under Rs20 a pop in the fall of 2011, the Bank’s share more than doubled in value in six years, to well over Rs40-plus region – its EPS (earning per share) at Rs4.96 and posting profit of Rs7.9 billion for the year ending December 2016 are both a true reflection of the Bank’s financial strength and profitability.

Another yardstick to measure Atif Bajwa’s success was Bank Alfalah gatecrashing to the very top of the banking industry’s totem pole, at the moment rated just below the previously nationalized entities – NBP, HBL, MCB Bank, United Bank and Allied Bank.

Post its last AGM, Atif Bajwa said: “During the year, we continued to create value for our shareholders and customers, we have strived to promote financial and digital inclusion through various initiatives, and remain committed to expand our impact further, and to touch the lives of as many people as possible.”

Despite such signal success at the helm, the Abu Dhabi Group – the conglomerate that holds Bank Alfalah – as well as industry insiders, claim that Atif Bajwa, alumni of University of Columbia, was actually pushed up the wall to the extent by someone with whom he shares his surname that he preferred to quit the position.

Another Bajwa, Adeel, had been appointed as CEO of the Dhabi group by its owners, the rulers of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, in the middle of August 2016 on the back of his salient success in offloading Warid Telecom, a cell phone company owned by the conglomerate, by palming it off to Mobilink after seriously upgrading it from a 2G entity to make it attractive enough for the market leader in the business.

For its part, Adeel Bajwa’s association with the Dhabi Group goes back now to around 13 years. Before becoming the CEO of the group last year, he was said to have been the mastermind in quite a few of the company’s lucrative deals in South Asia and Africa.

As events unfolded, it is now quite obvious that with Adeel Bajwa’s star in the ascendant, the other Bajwa, Atif’s, started to wane – now resulting in the latter’s departure from a position which he had up to now held with some distinction.

Nauman Ansari will succeed Atif as President and CEO of Bank Alfalah, subject to legal and regulatory approvals.

Nauman has served various banks during his twenty-four-year professional career that includes leading institutions like SCB, BoA, ABN Amro, Fortis Bank and Samba. He joined Faysal Bank as Group Head, Corporate & Investment Banking in 2008 and was appointed President & CEO in 2014.

Nauman is reputed to be a seasoned banker with strong professional acumen. He is a business graduate of Miami University, USA.

His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Chairman of the Board, said, “I would like to express my appreciation to Atif for his valuable contribution to the Bank, and I am happy to announce the appointment of Nauman Ansari as the new President & CEO of Bank Alfalah. He will provide strong and effective leadership to meet the Bank’s strategic objectives and build the franchise further. We wish him success in his new role.”

His Highness further added, “We are confident that the banking sector of Pakistan will continue to show resilience whilst making positive contributions towards Pakistan’s economy and Bank Alfalah will remain the most reliable and digitally advanced bank of choice for its customers.”

Amidst the buzz about Bajwa’s exit, rumours were making rounds on Whatsapp and social media websites that Atif Bajwa was being considered for the position of Governor State Bank (SBP). Some messages and posts even claimed that the decision had been finalized and the formality of an announcement was pending.

All such rumours have proven to be completely false as confirmed by Profit. “Neither party has even approached each other let alone the question of a decision being made” said a reliable source.