Major bank head steps down

The chief executive of one of Australia's big four banks has announced they will retire on 1 February 2015.

The Westpac Board has appointed Brian Hartzer to succeed Gail Kelly as the group’s CEO.

Mr Hartzer is currently chief executive, Australian Financial Services, responsible for the Westpac Group’s retail, business banking and wealth businesses, including Westpac Retail & Business Banking, St.George Banking Group and BT Financial Group. 

Mr Hartzer has more than 25 years’ experience in financial services. Before joining Westpac in 2012, he was Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) chief executive officer UK Retail, Wealth and Ulster Bank.

He was previously a senior executive at ANZ, including its CEO, Australia, covering that bank’s domestic retail, commercial banking and wealth management businesses.

“On behalf of the board I want to thank and acknowledge Gail’s leadership and outstanding contribution to Westpac,” Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted said.

“Gail is one of Australia’s most successful CEOs. She was appointed as the global financial crisis was unfolding and her leadership and dedication has seen Westpac emerge a stronger and better company,” Mr Maxsted said.

“During her tenure the value of the company has more than doubled, with market capitalisation increasing from just under $50 billion to around $104 billion,” he said.

“Gail drove the successful merger with St.George, which saw the group strengthen its position in retail banking and in wealth.

“At the same time, she reset the organisation’s focus on customer service and revitalised Westpac’s branch network through Westpac Local. Her leadership galvanised the group’s divisions to work together as one team, ensuring the best outcome for customers across their total financial services needs.

“Gail’s passion for people has resulted in the development of a diverse and highly engaged workforce. She has personally driven the growth of women in senior executive roles, mature aged workers and those who work part time.

“One of Gail’s many strengths has been her development of an outstanding executive team.

"This nurturing of talent has not only enabled the board to choose an internal candidate for succession, it sets the group up for success beyond her tenure.

“Gail leaves the group in strong shape, and well placed to compete in the next phase of our strategy,” Mr Maxsted said.

Mrs Kelly said it has been a "great honour" for her to be the CEO of the major lender.

“It has been an amazing seven years, during which time Westpac has fundamentally transformed and grown,” she said.

“I am very proud of how we tackled the stresses and challenges of the global financial crisis, supporting our customers while at the same time materially strengthening our balance sheet.

"I am also very pleased with our successful merger with St.George. We now have a strong set of customer-centred brands, all performing well and setting us apart from our competitors. Most of all, I am proud of our people and the way they support our customers, each other and the community, every day."

Mrs Kelly said the Westpac Group is well positioned with strong momentum and a high-quality team.

“This is an excellent time to hand the reins to our next CEO, who will take the group through to our bicentennial celebrations and beyond,” she said.

“I’m delighted Brian Hartzer has been appointed to the role. Brian and I have worked closely during the past two-and-a-half years. He is a proven leader and a wonderful fit for the Westpac culture. This is an exciting time for the group,” she added.

Mr Maxsted said having assessed the market both locally and globally, Mr Hartzer was the right person to succeed Mrs Kelly.

“Brian is a world-class executive who brings to the role a deep knowledge of banking and financial services, both in Australia and globally,” he said.

“Under his leadership AFS has delivered outstanding results, achieving compound earnings growth of 10 per cent over three years, while reducing the division’s cost-to-income ratio by almost two-and-a-half percentage points.

“Brian’s passion for customers and people is evident in everything he does, with AFS making significant headway in customer satisfaction and employee engagement under his stewardship.

“He has ensured that AFS has a clear strategy and strong management team. He is an inclusive leader who has demonstrated an innate ability to unite people behind a common purpose.

“Importantly, Brian has the experience, skills and energy to continue Westpac’s strong financial performance as well as engage effectively with all stakeholders including customers, employees, investors and regulators.”

Mr Hartzer said it is a great privilege to be chosen to lead the Westpac Group.

“It is an exciting time for the organisation as we are poised to become the first Australian company to enter our third century in business,” he said.

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