Wednesday, October 28, 2020

KPMG partner Michael Rowland joins Westpac as new CFO

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Westpac has hired management consultant and former ANZ banker Michael Rowland as its next chief financial officer, highlighting his experience in restructuring companies and boosting productivity.

Chief executive Peter King, who left the key role of CFO to become CEO during last year’s money laundering compliance crisis, said Mr Rowland’s appointment would assist his goal of simplifying the country’s oldest bank.

Mr Rowland is set to join Westpac during a period of major change at the banking giant after last November’s revelations of a mass breach of anti-money laundering laws, including failing to properly vet thousands of suspicious payments potentially involving child exploitation transactions. The scandal sparked a management shake-up and put the bank on track to cop a record-breaking corporate fine.

Mr Rowland is joining from KPMG, where he has been a partner in management consulting specialising in financial services since 2014. Before that, Mr Rowland held executive positions at ANZ Bank, and was also the finance chief at ING Australia.

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Mr King, a Westpac veteran who has vowed to simplify Westpac during the at least two years he expects to serve as CEO, said the new CFO’s experience at KPMG would bring “valuable external perspectives.”

“In particular, Michael’s expertise in business restructuring, delivering sustainable productivity and revenue programs and in disciplined financial management will be an important contributor to making Westpac a simpler and stronger bank,” he said.

Picking a new CEO is one of several senior appointments on Mr King’s plate after the recent departures of three of the lender’s most senior executives: retail banking head David Lindberg, chief information officer Craig Bright, and institutional boss Lyn Cobley.

Mr Rowland will join Westpac later this year, with Gary Thursby continuing to act in the role in the meantime.

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Since his permanent appointment in April, Mr King has signalled he could rationalise parts of the banking group, setting up a new division in May that will house several wealth businesses that could be sold off.

Banks are also under pressure from financial markets to cut costs after profit margins have been crunched by ultra-low interest rates and with soft credit growth on the horizon.

Despite initial hopes Westpac’s anti-money laundering lawsuit could be settled quickly with the bank setting aside $900 million to cover a potential fine, the lender has not been able to reach an agreement with the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, and a court dispute is continuing.

AUSTRAC was last month given two months to add any new allegations to its blockbuster case against Westpac after it said it was investigating suspicious transactions from 272 customers who may have been involved in paedophilia.

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