Banks need a ‘better cost structure’: Narev

Australia’s major banks must use data analytics, artificial intelligence and robotics to increase productivity and reduce costs, says outgoing CBA chief executive Ian Narev.

Speaking at a Morningstar conference in Sydney on Friday (6 October), outgoing CBA chief executive Ian Narev said that the major banks must "adapt or die" when it comes to new technology.

"Over five to 10 years in [the banking] industry, if you do not successfully adapt, you will not succeed," Mr Narev said.

"I say that without any sense of hyperbole at all. And [CBA] does not feel at all complacent about where we are, because you have got to keep going, but we feel pretty good about our relative position today."

First, according to Mr Narev, banks need to realise that their customers want to do business online, and will compare their banking experience with Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

"Number two is that the opportunities to apply artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotics to fundamental productivity is critical because we need a better cost structure," Mr Narev said.

"While we are evolving to a better cost structure, we also need to be the responsible employer of 50,000 people and help our own workforce make the transition, which we are very committed to doing.

"So for us, this has been a topic of real focus for the last few years. It will remain a topic into the future. We are committed to adapt."

Mr Narev also took the opportunity to reiterate his apologies to CBA's shareholders and customers for "not reaching the standards we should have" regarding AUSTRAC's accusations of CBA's failings relating to anti-money laundering compliance.

"We let down our stakeholders and, regardless of the ins and outs of the legal claim, I am sorry for that as the chief executive. I take accountability for it and can assure you that we are taking it extremely seriously," Mr Narev said.

Mr Narev, who is due to leave CBA by 1 July 2018, also joked about the identity of his successor.

He said: "We have got uncertainty with leadership succession, although I can give you a guarantee that the next chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank will be better than the current one."

[Related: CBA 'skeletons' have regulators worried]

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