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South Asia

National Bank of Pakistan’s balancing act

A much-needed and long-overdue shake-up is starting to pay off, but National Bank of Pakistan’s chief executive is still fighting hard against the old ways of doing business.

Arif Usmani walking tightrope

Arif Usmani, president and CEO of National Bank of Pakistan, says he had one of his “grimmest days” at work in February 2020, when fraud was uncovered at two of the bank’s branches in the northern Abbottabad District of Pakistan.

Usmani, 63, had been in his job for barely a year, but the discovery and ensuing clean-up turned out to be a pivotal moment, creating an opportunity to shake up and strengthen the bank’s critical risk, compliance and audit teams.

“In a very perverse sort of way, this helped me a lot,” Usmani tells Asiamoney in a video interview from his office in Karachi.

“The senior-most title below the president is SEVP, or senior executive vice-president. I have got rid of two SEVPs and five EVPs in my two years, which is a record. It has never happened in the history of National Bank of Pakistan that an SEVP would lose his job for [questions about] competence.”

One of the SEVPs was the bank’s chief internal auditor. NBP’s audit committee asked him to leave in April 2020, at Usmani’s recommendation, because of his alleged role in the fraud. The bank’s compliance chief was also fired in the aftermath of the fraud revelations – one of the five EVPs dismissed during Usmani’s tenure.

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