Commonwealth Bank promotes customer and tech savvy retail banking chief to CEO

Group executive of retail banking to replace Ian Narev, who bows out after a string of financial scandals at the banking giant

Matt Comyn
Matt Comyn

The Commonwealth Bank has appointed a successor to outgoing CEO, Ian Narev, highlighting the new chief’s customer-centric outcomes, technology-led retail achievements and employee engagement efforts as key reasons for his appointment.  

Matt Comyn officially takes up the reins as CEO on 9 April 2018 after nearly six years as the ASX-listed bank’s group executive of retail banking services. In a statement CBA chairman, Catherine Livingstone, said the 42-year old offered the best mix of attributes and values.

“The board’s main priorities in selecting the new CEO were to identify the candidate who will maintain the momentum in the business, and address the regulatory and reputational challenges and recognise evolving community expectations,” she said.

“The candidate also needs to transform the business and adapt the organisational capability and culture to suit the rapidly evolving competitive and technology centric environment.”

The appointment comes five months since Narev announced his departure by the end of this financial year, a decision prompted by heavy criticism over a number of financial scandals that have seen CBA become the subject of a royal commission, and forced to pay millions in ASIC fines and customer refunds.

Comyn initially joined CBA in 1999, and was managing director of CBA’s CommSec business between 2006 and 2010, leading a technology transformation during this time. He left briefly in 2010 to become the CEO of Morgan Stanley’s wealth business in Australia before returning to CBA to lead local business banking and then retail banking and its 14,000 staff from 2012. According to the company, NPAT in retail banking has increased 60 per cent since 2012.

In 2017, Comyn is credited with spearheading CBA’s ‘financial wellbeing’ approach aimed at using digital innovations to help customers gain visibility and control over finances.

In its ASX statement, CBA noted customer satisfaction reached its highest levels and achieved number one for the first time in January 2013 following Comyn’s appointment to retail chief.

Livingstone said a key priority for Comyn is to “energise the culture and elevate employee pride and confidence”. She pointed out employee engagement also improved under his leadership.

“Matt’s track record is one of delivering very strong business performance, as well as a range of innovative, sustainable business improvements that have strengthened customer outcomes,” she said. “These have included initiatives reflecting out vision of enhancing financial wellbeing, and consistently industry leading customer satisfaction ratings for the retail bank.

“His mandate is to continue to make the necessary changes to ensure CBA remains a leading bank with an unwavering focus on its customers and delivering outcomes for shareholders, while achieving the highest operational standards, unequivocally fulfilling our regulatory obligations.”

Comyn said he was excited by the opportunity to lead CBA in its “new phase of change and transformation”.

“In terms of outcomes, I believe we can achieve the right balance in meeting the expectations of customers, shareholders and the community, with a sharp focus on our core purpose,” he said.

“We can empower our customers to achieve financial wellbeing and through this, broaden and deepen the contribution we make to Australia’s economy. By virtue of the position CBA holds in the community, we need to equally demonstrate the highest levels of integrity and operational standards to earn stronger levels of trust within the community and regulators.”

CBA has suffered a string of scandals, from inappropriately selling consumer credit insurance to overcharging customers on home loan protection insurance. Arguably, the biggest to hit the bank was the financial planning scandal in 2015, which led to a royal commission inquiry and millions in fines and customer refunds.  

“The last six months in particular have been very challenging and I am committed to working with the board, the executive team and our wonderful people to rebuild trust in the Commonwealth Bank together,” Comyn added.

In December, CBA confirmed its group executive of marketing and strategy, Vittoria Shortt, had been promoted to CEO of ASB Bank in New Zealand.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

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