Former APRA chair to lead Westpac AML probe

  • By Christine St Anne

Westpac has hired former APRA chair Jeff Carmichael to lead the bank’s audit on its anti-money laundering compliance failures with his first priority reviewing issues associated with LitePay. 

The review is part of the bank’s response plan announced on Sunday

In taking on the task, Carmichael acknowledged that the “proliferation of financial crime has increased exponentially” with the “rapid digitization of the global economy”. 

“Governments and financial institutions all around the world are grappling with the complexities associated with both monitoring and managing the reporting of suspicious activity given the huge volumes of transactions taking place every day,” Carmichael said in a statement. 

“As we have seen with the Westpac matter, the implications of systems, personnel or governance failings around financial crime can very serious,” he added.

Carmichael will be working in his capacity as Promontory Australasian practice leader. 

According to Westpac chair Lindsay Maxsted, Promontory will undertake “this urgent external review given their background and global expertise on this matter”. 

Maxsted said the first priority would be reviewing issues associated with LitePay. 

“If an where procedural, escalation or accountability failings are confirmed through Promontory’s review, there will be immediate action taken,” Maxsted said.

A newly-appointed committee will oversee the review and includes none executive director Peter Nash and non-executive directors Nerida Caeser, Steven Harker and Margaret Seale. 

Carmichael has extensive experience in financial services and was until June 2003, the inaugural chair of APRA. In 2014, he was also hired to review the Commonwealth Bank’s financial advice business following a report by the Senate. 

Westpac also announced that Alastair Welsh will become the new acting group executive of enterprise services while Gary Thursby acts in the role as chief financial officer. 

Welsh has been acting in the job as CEO of its business division since April. 

“Al has done an excellent job leading the business division since the reset of our wealth strategy earlier this year,” Westpac acting CEO Peter King said.

“As acting CEO, my immediate priorities for the business will be to implement the response plan announced on Sunday and to ensure continued execution of the group’s broader strategy,” King said.

“Al’s strong relationships and extensive banking experience will help ensure we maintain the focus on our business agenda.”