Narev’s departure ‘part of an orderly process’

The Commonwealth Bank has dismissed speculation that CEO Ian Narev’s impending retirement has anything to do with the major bank’s recent money-laundering scandal.

Catherine Livingstone, CBA chairwoman, told journalists on Monday, 14 August, that the departure of CEO Ian Narev from the bank by the end of the 2018 financial year was “part of an orderly process” as a result of Mr Narev reaching six years in the position.

The decision to inform the public and the bank’s shareholders was made in order to bring “clarity and transparency” and allow “everyone to get back and focus on the job at hand”, she said.

“This statement has not been rushed; it's been carefully considered and the board formed the view in conjunction with Ian, that if we provided this statement and clarity in regards to the timing, it would afford Ian and the team to focus back on . . . the running of the bank. Shareholders will, at all times, ask you about CEO succession, even from the moment of the appointment of a new CEO.”

Responding to a suggestion that Mr Narev will be a “lame-duck” leader in the nine remaining months until his departure, Ms Livingstone said: “Ian is absolutely CEO and the board will hold him to account as it has done in terms of all of the actions and running of the bank to make sure that it's a successful business.”

In a statement made last week, Ms Livingstone said that Mr Narev retained “the full confidence of the board” following the recent AUSTRAC allegations that the bank breached anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws.

When asked whether Mr Narev had offered his resignation to the board, Ms Livingstone repeated the sentiment and reinforced that the statement regarding the CEO’s retirement was put out to “provide clarity”.

“Ian has done a remarkable job and the board has full confidence in his continuing as CEO, right up until the day that he leaves. There is no one who puts the interests of the bank at a higher priority than Ian does."

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According to Ms Livingstone, a highly regarded candidate for the top job would possess traits similar to Mr Narev's.

“We would be looking for someone that demonstrates complete transparency, particularly in relation to operating with the board. [Someone] who has a very collaborative style because leadership is a collective dynamic; it's not down to one individual. We would want to know the person could develop a team and work with a team".

Ms Livingstone continued that the CEO position would also require "someone with a very strong moral compass" because, although the "right and wrong are clear", the judgment calls that have to be made along the way "can be challenging".

“Those are the qualities that we have currently in Ian and we would seek to ensure that we have those in his successor,” she said.

She added that the successful candidate would need to have “real personal values” and a “solid track record of successful experience”.

[Related: CBA CEO to ‘retire’ next year]

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Lucy Dean

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