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CBA’s head of retail banking to become new CEO

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Reporter 3 minute read

The major bank has announced that it has appointed its group executive for retail banking services to the role of chief executive officer, effective 9 April 2018.

Matt Comyn will be the new CEO of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), effective 9 April 2018, replacing Ian Narev, who announced in August that he would retire before the end of this financial year, after more than six years in the role.

CBA chairman Catherine Livingstone AO said that a thorough global and local search for the role identified “an exceptional field of candidates”.

Ms Livingstone noted that any appointment to the role had to be considered “very carefully”, given the “unique combination of the bank’s commercial and operational priorities”.

She elaborated: “Of immediate concern, the bank currently faces a range of reputational, regulatory and legal issues that have overshadowed what has otherwise been very strong progress and performance.

“The equally pressing strategic challenges involve rapidly changing competitive and regulatory environments, and the accelerating evolution of technology, which is both a threat and an opportunity.

“In short, the candidate we were seeking was someone who could restore the bank’s reputation in areas where trust has been damaged; maintain the current operating momentum and continue to deliver strong performance and attractive returns to shareholders; transform the business to adapt and capitalise on innovations in technology; renew and cultivate the right culture; and achieve all the above, by focusing first and foremost on customers.”

She added: “The board’s unanimous decision to appoint Matt was based on the fact that he met our criteria more compellingly than any other candidate…

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“In the board’s view, Matt is the best positioned and qualified candidate, with the recognised mix of attributes and values, to address the issues currently facing the bank, and lead the transformation of the organisation, as banking becomes an increasingly sophisticated, competitive and socially significant part of the economy.”

‘Absolutely committed’ to address the current legal issues

Mr Comyn has nearly 20 years’ experience in banking across business, institutional, retail and wealth management.

He joined the Commonwealth Bank Group in 1999 where he has held a number of senior leadership roles. In 2012, he was appointed group executive of retail banking services, which now accounts for half of the group’s profit, and also leads the development of digital products and services on behalf of the group. Between 2006 and 2010, Mr Comyn was managing director of CBA’s biggest digital business, CommSec.

Mr Comyn has also formerly held the title of CEO of Morgan Stanley’s wealth business in Australia.

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He holds an executive MBA from Sydney University; a master’s degree in commerce, majoring in finance, from the University of New South Wales; and a bachelor’s degree in aviation, also from UNSW. He has also completed the General Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Mr Comyn told shareholders and the media on Monday morning: “The last six months have been challenging for many of us, but I am absolutely committed to working with the board and the executive team to address the current legal and regulatory and reputational issues that we are facing.” 

He continued: “The Commonwealth Bank is a world-class institution and it’s an absolute privilege to lead it. I’m delighted, in particular, to be working closely with our people to deliver even greater experiences for all of our customers. It’s also important that we maintain the momentum already underway, upgrading our governance, accountability and risk management while continuing to deliver strong financial performance.

“Banking is going through a period of significant technology and competitive change, and I’m excited to be able to lead the organisation as we prepare for the next phase of that context and transform us in preparation for that.

“I believe we can achieve the right balance, meeting expectations of customers, shareholders and the community, with a sharp focus on our core focus. In doing so, I’m committed to empowering our customers to achieve greater financial wellbeing, and I believe this is a key aspect of how we will broaden and depend our contribution to the communities in which we operate.”

Speaking of outgoing CEO Ian Narev, Mr Comyn added: “It has been an absolute privilege to work with him closely over the last nine years. At all times, he has demonstrated the highest possible standards of personal and professional integrity and has given an absolute unwavering commitment to the organisation.

“He’s a fantastic person and he will be missed inside the organisation.

“Lastly, I just want to thank Catherine and the board for giving me this opportunity and the trust that they have shown in me in leading the Commonwealth Bank.”

[Related: CBA admits to breaches of counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws]

CBA’s head of retail banking to become new CEO
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