4.45am starts: CEO Michael Saadie on family, business and leading NAB Private Wealth


Michael Saadie learned from an early age the value of hard work and the mantra to “never touch anything twice”.  
NAB Private Wealth and CEO of JBWere Michael Saadie.
CEO of JBWere Michael Saadie. Image: Supplied

He recalls spending time working on sites with his father, who constantly reiterated the message around one-touch processes. “You don’t want to move bricks twice,” he would say.  

Now the freshly minted head of NAB Private Wealth and CEO of JBWere, Saadie is adopting a similar approach to enhance the firm’s wealth management services –across wealth advisors, private bankers, investment specialists and the nabtrade platform – to bring the best possible wealth outcomes to clients.  

Often, those clients are business owners themselves and know all too well the value of efficiency and hard work. They have had their heads down, building their businesses. Typically, Saadie says a significant event – like an exit, listing, fast growth, retirement, or sudden need/desire to consider succession plans – will see them reaching out to determine their next steps on wealth management.  

For successful business owners and entrepreneurs, such questions about “what next?” can occur at any age and stage, but Saadie expects to see more such conversations happening over the coming years – a trend that NAB Private Wealth is ready to support in the most streamlined way possible.  

“Business ownership is the leading pathway to significant wealth creation in Australia,” Saadie says. “And we’re set to see a lot more.  

“There is a huge demographic shift coming, with a large percentage of major shareholders of private businesses being over 70. And that means there’s set to be even more business owners making big decisions about wealth transition. 

“We want to start having conversations with these business owners now, to best support with this shift. What are your intentions? Is it philanthropy? Is it community? Is it about how can we support the next generation? “What do you want from wealth?”  

Importantly, Saadie says they also want to provide services via a single point of contact, to avoid already time-poor business owners having to navigate their way through different teams. 

Meanwhile, the wealth being created by Australian business owners is set to also benefit the community. 

Saadie says NAB Private Wealth is seeing more questions about philanthropy options and impact investment strategies. NAB Private Wealth already manages more than $10 billion for over 600 for-purpose clients and boasts a first of its kind in Australia Responsible Investing Framework, with 97% of funds on its High Conviction List having either a positive or neutral Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)/Responsible Investment (RI) rating. In 2022, it also formed a powerful relationship with BlackRock, becoming its sole partner in Australia on its new ESG focused Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).  

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These types of offerings, alongside Australia’s burgeoning entrepreneurial and business market, saw NAB Private Wealth experiencing double digit growth in FY22 for deposits and lending. This year also saw a 7% increase in trading accounts, with 38,000 new clients welcomed to the platform.  

So how did Saadie come to helm the bank leading on managing the wealth of Australia’s most successful individuals and families?  

Family is hugely significant in his own success and path to this role – as noted by the work ethic his father instilled in him.  Another pillar is his vast banking experience, particularly leading across business banking, and managing risk during one of NAB’s most challenging periods.  

One of nine siblings (the second last born), Saadie brings a unique perspective on family into leadership and relationship management.  

He says there’s a lot he learned about leadership from his parents – including from his father who worked in construction, and his mother who ran the household. They were married for 73 years, and perhaps reflective of such a long union, passed away within three weeks of each other just before Christmas last year.   

Saadie experienced a socially charged, noisy and energetic childhood, but also a family with high expectations for all their children. So much so that Saadie recalls wanting to drop out of studying architecture drafting but needing a “good excuse” to do so. By chance, he attended a careers day during his studies, where he was offered a job at ANZ that would allow him to switch disciplines and study part time. 

“I’m not sure I would have survived dinner if I came home that day and just told them I was dropping out,” he says. “But the truth is, I didn’t have a design bone in my body.”  

Officially commencing his term as head of Nab private Wealth and CEO JBWere on January 16 and based in Melbourne where he lives with his wife Joanna and three children Hannah, Will & Tom. Saadie says he’s already spending a lot of time personally working with business owners and families.  

He’s clear on his ambitions to transform the world of private banking in Australia, and his arrival at NAB Private Wealth coincides with the business already boasting good numbers. Revenue was up over 10% in FY22  

In the original service model, the business already had a unique differentiator through JBWere – one of Australia’s oldest and most respected wealth advisers.  

“You have got to really love what you’re doing with work, but also make time and space for family.”

Michael Saadie

“In 2022, we took it a step further adding our business banking experts to our service. NAB Private Wealth’s proposition is without comparison in Australia – we’ve brought together Australia’s largest business lender and Australia’s the best private bank” says Saadie. 

Saadie personally brings significant knowledge on business to the job, having run NAB’s business banking metro team at NAB prior to this appointment, in a bank that has 26 per cent share of business owners already banking with them.  

Over the next 12 months, Saadie says the plan will be to further optimise the experience for clients, enable more efficiencies and create the most seamless experience possible.  

He’s optimistic about the future for Australian businesses, especially given the efficiencies that have been gained in the past few years as businesses responded to the pandemic. High employment levels also see him staying positive on the outlook ahead.  

As for his own work life, Saadie is up at 4:45am most mornings shared with his wife to take their daughter to swimming training, and get in his own exercise, before getting to the office. While he aims to reserve the weekends for family time, he says he shares a similar love for his work to what he encounters from his clients.  

“You have got to really love what you’re doing with work, but also make time and space for family,” he says. 

NAB Private Wealth will present the inaugural Forbes Australia Women’s Summit on March 22, 2023. Book now to secure your spot.

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