Westpac has announced further changes to its executive team as it continues to deal with the fallout from revelations that it contravened anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws on over 23 million occasions.
The major bank has appointed Alastair Welsh to the role of acting group executive enterprise services while Gary Thursby acts in the role of chief financial officer (CFO).
The changes come on the heels of the departure of CEO Brian Hartzer following Westpac’s AUSTRAC scandal, after which CFO Peter King was appointed as acting CEO until a global search process for a new CEO is completed.
Commenting on Mr Welsh’s appointment, incoming acting CEO Mr King said: “Al is an experienced member of the senior leadership team and has provided more than 25 years of service to the Westpac Group.”
“He has done an excellent job leading the business division since the reset of our wealth strategy earlier this year.”
The group executive enterprise services is responsible for leading the group’s operations functions, property and procurement, remediation and coordination of the group-wide transformation.
“Al’s strong relationships and extensive banking experience will help ensure we maintain the focus on our business agenda,” Mr King said.
Mr Welsh has been acting in the role of chief executive business since April 2019, with Westpac announcing Guilherme Lima as new chief executive business in June. Mr Lima will begin his role with the bank on 2 December.
Australia’s anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulator AUSTRAC recently applied to the Federal Court for civil penalty orders against Westpac over 23 million alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws.
The most alarming revelation by AUSTRAC in its statement claim was that the bank failed to appropriately monitor outgoing international funds transfer instructions (IFTIs) of customers, including those which it alleged are “consistent with child exploitation typologies”.
For example, one such customer reportedly transferred money to a person who was later arrested for child trafficking and child exploitation involving live streaming of child sex shows.
Both Mr Hartzer and the board apologised “unreservedly” and expressed their “deep sorrow for failings by Westpac”, and outlined its response plan to the issues raised.
On 24 November, in an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) Westpac announced its response plan, including the immediate closing of the LitePay international funds transfer system, which was a technology platform that facilitated low value international payments.
On 28 November, Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted announced that Promontory had been appointed to undertake the external accountability and financial crime program review, which was also outlined in its response plan.
In addition, Westpac said it will also establish an accountability review advisory panel of three independent experts to consider Promontory’s report and provide recommendations on governance and board accountability.
In announcing Mr Welsh’s appointment, Mr King said: “As acting CEO, my immediate priorities for the business will be to implement the response plan announced on Sunday (24 November) and to ensure continued execution of the group’s broader strategy.”
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.