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Doing what is necessary to put things right

Doing what is necessary to put things right

Two days after I was announced as CEO, a woman came up to me on the street. I thought she was going to ask me for directions. And instead she said: “You’re the new CEO of Commonwealth Bank, aren’t you?”. I said yes, and she said: “I’ve got something to say to you, but you aren’t going to like it”.

She told me she was a loyal customer and shareholder, and she was angry about what she was hearing about Commonwealth Bank in the news. She had lost her trust in us. We talked, and I thanked her. I told her our job, my job, now is to fix what is broken and to earn back her trust and the trust of many customers like her.

That encounter had a big impact on me.

A few days later I told the Chair that I would not accept a short term incentive payment for this year, given all of the challenges and obvious frustration in the community with the bank. We then shared this decision with the board in March. I see this as a small step to demonstrate that I will hold myself accountable for delivering for our customers.

I have thought a lot about what has gone wrong at CBA. My assessment is consistent with what you will read in this [new APRA] report.

We have become complacent, we allow good intention and collegiality to matter more than accountability and follow through. Our capabilities in risk and compliance simply were not good enough. And we did not listen hard enough to our unhappiest customers, and therefore missed the deeper root causes.

As a result, we let down our customers, we let down our regulators, and as management we let down our people.

I am sorry, and I can assure you I am committed to doing what is necessary to put things right.

[The] APRA report is clear, fair, insightful and confronting. It is what we needed to hear, and I thank the panel and the inquiry team for their hard work.

It lays out a clear diagnosis and actionable recommendations which provide us with a clear and valuable roadmap. Today I am having over 500 copies of the report made for our most senior leaders, many of whom I am seeing this afternoon. I am going to take the time with them to read out key parts of the report, and then ask them to take their copy and read it carefully.

Some of our leaders may think the report is unfair. Some will think that it describes Commonwealth Bank but not them or their teams. I will make it clear that this report describes the bank. It describes me, and it describes every one of us.

I will ask each one of them to reflect on the report and what they need to do differently as a result and for each of their teams to share those reflections.

I am also going to attend some of those meetings. As the report states, there is no silver bullet for us, but this is a first step to shift our culture to be more transparent, more accountable and more customer focused.

My ask is that you track our progress and hold me and my team accountable. I will be transparent with you. We will provide an update once the plan has been finalised with APRA and we will then report regularly on progress we are making. That progress will also be reviewed independently.

As you know, there is a capital adjustment that forms part of the enforceable undertaking. I am committed to making progress with the remedial plan. Once we have made satisfactory progress with the EU undertakings and remedial action plan, we will be able to apply for a partial removal of the capital adjustment.

Together, with my management team, I assure our customers, our regulators and our shareholders that we fully understand the urgency of this task.

My goal is to earn back the trust of that woman on the street, and all those customers who have come to question our commitment to them.

We will make the necessary changes to become a better bank that lives up to the high standards expected of us. 

The comments made in this blog were made by Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive officer Matt Comyn in an investor and analyst conference call held on 1 May 2018 regarding the bank's response to the APRA Prudential Inquiry into CBA.

Doing what is necessary to put things right
Matt Comyn, CEO of Commonwealth Bank
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