National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) has said its group CEO Alex Thursby has stepped down after more than three years at the helm of one of the biggest lenders in the UAE.

Abhijit Choudhury, the chief risk officer of NBAD, has taken over as the acting CEO, the lender said in a statement, adding that Choudhury will continue in the role until NBAD’s planned merger with rival First Gulf Bank (FGB) is completed.

Khalifa Sultan al-Suwaidi, who is currently a member of NBAD’s board, is taking on the newly created role of managing director to support the bank in the integration planning process before the merger is finished.

Abdulhamid Saeed, the current managing director of FGB, was announced as the CEO designate of NBAD on 3 July and is due to take up this position on completion of the merger, according to the statement.

The boards of the two Abu Dhabi government-controlled banks in July voted to merge the two financial giants and recommend the deal to respective shareholders. The transaction is expected to create the largest lender by assets in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

The banks did not say when the shareholders of NBAD and FGB will meet to vote on the possible combination. The merger is subject regulatory approvals and getting a nod from at least 75 per cent of shareholders from each bank.

Both entities will continue to operate independently until the merger becomes effective, which is expected in the first quarter of 2017.