Veteran banker Isam al-Sager is the most likely candidate to become the new group chief executive of National Bank of Kuwait, succeeding Ibrahim Dabdoub who is retiring from the post after three decades, sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Dabdoub, who has close ties with policy makers in Kuwait and around the Gulf, transformed NBK from a local lender into one of the Middle East's biggest financial institutions, as well as the largest bank inKuwait.
So investors are likely to see the choice of his successor as pivotal for the bank. Dabdoub, 74, said in December that he would step down as CEO after NBK's next annual general meeting, which is expected in March.
Sager, 58, is currently Dabdoub's deputy. His appointment still needs approval from regulatory authorities in Kuwait, said the sources, who declined to be named because the matter is not yet public.
NBK declined to comment and attempts to reach Sager were unsuccessful.
As deputy group CEO, Sager has worked closely with Dabdoub, who will remain as a consultant to the board of directors. Sager, a member of one of Kuwait's prominent business families, joined NBK in 1978; he became CEO of its Kuwait business in 2008 and was promoted to deputy group CEO in 2010.
The choice of Sager would not come as a surprise to Kuwait's banking community; his name was mentioned as early as 2005 as part of succession plans at the bank, according to a U.S diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks.
Dabdoub led the bank through Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990-1 as well as local and global financial crises. NBK has grown to have offices in 16 countries and made $1.09 billion of net profit in 2012.