Westpac keeps focus on technology as acting CEO prepares to make the “hard decisions”

  • By Christine St Anne

Westpac acting CEO Peter King said the bank was on track with modernising its technology while also apologising for system failures on its anti-money laundering breaches.

Speaking at the bank’s annual general meeting on Thursday, King said that he was “personally devastated by the allegations in AUSTRAC’s statement of claim” having “worked at Westpac for 25 years. 

He added that the bank will remain focused on responding and addressing the allegations including immediate fixes – including closing products and reporting outstanding historical files related to AUSTRAC’s IFT claims – lifting standards and customer compensation. 

Data sharing will also be a crucial step for the bank in fighting financial crime. 

Amid the AML fallout, the bank will also remain focused on its strategy around technology and innovation. 

“Although our financial performance was lower, we’ve made good progress on our strategy, particularly in improving our technology infrastructure and migrating more activity to our digital channels,” King said.

He noted that the bank’s commitment to modernizing infrastructure has improved speeds and reduced costs adding that in 2019, Westpac did not report any major system outages.

The bank has also continued the Panorama roll-out – its investment paltfom and has also joined the New Payments Platform. 

“We need to make banking easier, more efficient and exceed the level of service customers expect. I intend to step up our focus on service,” King said.

He added that the AUSTRAC claims has highlighted that the bank must “change the way we work”. 

“I am focused on our need to improve end-to-end processes and accountability and I will make the hard decisions.” 

Going forward, King expects operating conditions to continue to be soft with growth remaining low. He expects ongoing regulatory intensity and interest rates to fall further.

“While this environment will continue to drag on performance in the 2020 year, we should see some balance sheet growth without a significant deterioration in credit quality.

“However, there will be extra costs as we work through the remaining regulatory issues.

“I am grateful going into this knowing I have the 35,000 people of Westpac behind me.”