National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the largest bank in the UAE by assets, is planning to establish eight global banking hubs as it launches an international expansion strategy.

The expansion plan is the brainchild of new chief executive Alex Thursby, who has set out a new five year strategy that he hopes will reposition the Abu Dhabi lender as an major bank across the Middle East and Asia.

A key part of the strategy is establishing hubs in Abu Dhabi, Lagos, Mumbai, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Washington. The bank already has operations in Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong and is in the process of applying for a banking license in Singapore.

Thursby described the new strategy as an “assertive” rather than an aggressive expansion, and added that NBAD would continue to focus on organic growth rather than acquisitions. In contrast, rivals like Qatar National Bank and Emirates NBD have made high-profile acquisitions that have allowed them to rapidly expand in new markets.

He added that NBAD high credit rating would enable it to bank some of the largest and most profitable companies in the world operating in the corridor from the Middle East and East through Asia. “The world has changed,” said Thursby. “Now you don’t assess the creditworthiness of the top corporates, they assess you.”

As the Central Bank of the UAE looks at implementing new regulations that would limit how much banks can lend to the government and government owned companies, Thursby said NBAD would adapt its strategy. “The single borrower limit is the right thing for the UAE to introduce,” said Thursby. “We want to create a bank that can do more banking for our clients than our capital base will allow. To do that we will build a significant capital markets business that can distribute those loans.”

Another key part of the expansion outlined by Thursby is growing the retail arm of the bank, which Thursby wants to see growing at consistent rates of around 15 per cent in terms of profits.