Commonwealth Bank Taps Retail Boss to Take Over as CEO -- Update

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Commonwealth Bank of Australia has tapped the head of its core retail banking division to take over as chief executive, tasking him with restoring a reputation marred by allegations of breaching anti-money laundering laws and failing customers.

The bank, Australia's largest by market value and the country's biggest mortgage lender, on Monday said Matt Comyn will succeed outgoing CEO Ian Narev from April 9. Mr. Narev had in August said he would retire by mid-2018, in the wake of a lawsuit launched against Commonwealth Bank by Australia's financial-intelligence agency.

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Mr. Comyn was selected from among a field of global and local candidates as the best positioned to address regulatory and reputational challenges, as well as a need to adapt to technology innovation and maintain the bank's growth momentum, Chairman Catherine Livingstone said.

"On any measure, Matt has already had a distinguished career at the Commonwealth Bank," Catherine Livingstone, who was appointed chairman at the start of 2017, said.

Since 2012, the 42-year-old Mr. Comyn has been in charge of the retail banking division, which now accounts for half of Commonwealth Bank's profit. He joined the bank in 1999, and was managing director of the CommSec stockbroking arm from 2006 to 2010, before leaving the bank briefly to become CEO of Morgan Stanley's wealth business in Australia.

The appointment would allow a smooth transition to new leadership, as the bank responds to ongoing regulatory processes and legal proceedings, she said.

A string of scandals in recent years involving Australian banks and insurers was the catalyst for a sweeping judicial investigation of the financial industry being called by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull late last year.

Pressure mounted on the prime minister to agree to a royal-commission inquiry after the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre launched a federal suit against Commonwealth Bank alleging tens of thousands of compliance failings that breached anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

Austrac in December expanded its lawsuit to allege a further 100 compliance breaches, a day after Commonwealth Bank filed its response to the earlier claims with the federal court, contesting a number of allegations but admitting to others including late submission of 53,506 compulsory transaction reports on deposits which it said were caused by a systems error.

Commonwealth Bank was among several financial institutions in the country to have faced claims of offering poor financial advice in recent years and failing to honor insurance claims. The bank has denied trying to avoid insurance payments to sick and dying people, although Mr. Narev had expressed disappointment in how some claims were handled.

Allegations and legal action have overshadowed an otherwise strong performance and progress made by Commonwealth Bank, Ms. Livingstone said.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 28, 2018 20:25 ET (01:25 GMT)