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Euromoney, August 20, 2017

“We are getting Australia’s version of the global zeitgeist about big business and big banking,” says Ian Narev, Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) chief executive officer. “And some aspects of that we’ve brought on ourselves, or at least made worse, and other aspects are our version of what’s been happening around the world.

“Either way, it’s something we’ve got to acknowledge and respond to.”

Narev was speaking to Euromoney in Commonwealth Bank’s Darling Park headquarters in Sydney on July 25. It’s fair to say he and his bank have faced a bit more of that zeitgeist since then.

On the positive side, in August the biggest bank in the southern hemisphere by market capitalization announced a A$9.88 billion profit, beating forecasts.

On the negative, it was accused of failing to report 53,000 suspicious transactions and therefore of violating the law 53,000 times, by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac), which is bringing a money-laundering court case against the bank.

Then Narev’s remuneration was slashed by the board. And then his retirement from the bank, by next June, was announced, in a move the bank is keen to present as natural succession planning, but is widely felt to be him falling on his sword or being ousted.

If the zeitgeist hadn’t caught up with him and the bank by the time we first spoke, it certainly has now.

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Chris Wright
Chris Wright
Chris is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He is Asia editor for Euromoney magazine and has written for publications including the Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Asiamoney, the Australian Financial Review, Discovery Channel Magazine, Qantas: The Australian Way and BRW. He is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins.

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