NAB goes for safe hands with Phil Chronican, Mike Baird in the wings

Baird, the banker-turned-politician-turned banker again, has been here before.

When the Coalition won a landslide NSW election in 2011, there was no clear path to the top for the then 42-year-old treasurer.

His boss, Barry O’Farrell, having banished Labor after 16 years in power, was viewed as potentially a three-term premier.

That left Baird looking like the Peter Costello of NSW politics, something he clearly did not fancy.

“The ideal time would be eight years as treasurer . . . then I might go and earn some super,” he said before the 2011 election.

As it turned out, O’Farrell failed to declare a bottle of Penfolds Grange and Baird was premier by April 2014.

As premier, he pushed a reform agenda, selling assets, building infrastructure and calling for the federal government to change the GST.

But less than three years after taking office, he resigned suddenly for family reasons.

His earning of “some super” came via NAB, when the well-entrenched Thorburn offered him the chance to rejoin the bank in April 2017.

Baird had started his career as a graduate at NAB in Sydney and went on to have senior roles at Deutsche Bank and HSBC.

After running NAB’s business bank for 18 months, Baird was appointed the head of NAB’s consumer banking and is ultimately responsible for 700 branches and 7000 bankers.

His sudden departure from politics, as the public mood swung against him, will raise questions as to whether he has the resilience and staying power to take on another high-profile role at a time when the industry is facing a tougher regulatory environment and public anger over revelations from the royal commission.


Baird will need to steer the bank through significant cultural change. His political experience will come in handy if he wins the top job as he will be dealing with regulators and an angry public.

Politics and being in the public eye are not unfamiliar. Baird’s father Bruce was a NSW politician in the 1980s and a federal politician for the decade to 2007. Baird junior spent some of his early childhood in New York, when his father was trade commissioner and then attended the prestigious Kings School in Sydney’s Parramatta.

In the meantime, Chronican looks like an appropriate interim choice. On his Linkedin page he said one of this main priorities while running the Australian business at ANZ was “instilling ethics into banking and finance”.

banker-turned-politician-turned banker

Ken Henry and Andrew Thorburn resign from NAB in the wake of Kenneth Hayne’s banking royal commission report.  David Rowe

Barry O'Farrell

In choosing the 62-year-old Philip Chronican to be its acting chief executive on Thursday, replacing Andrew Thorburn, NAB has picked an industry veteran. Louie Douvis

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