New Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn has begun his stint leading the banking giant by apologising to staff for CBA’s “unacceptable” failures in recent years, vowing that “things will change” under his watch.
Mr Comyn, who takes over from Ian Narev as CBA chief on Monday, said in an email that a key priority would be to “put things right” with customers who had been let down by the bank over recent years.
CBA has been the most scandal-prone of the country’s major banks in recent years. Last year it faced explosive allegations it breached of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws, following previous revelations of misconduct in its financial advice business, and problems in its life insurance arm.
“We have made mistakes. We have not done enough to protect our customers. That starts with me and our senior executives,” Mr Comyn wrote in a message to the bank’s 51,000 staff.
“We have let some of our customers down when they have needed us most. In doing so we have let you down. We have been too slow to fix mistakes and we have failed to meet some important regulatory and compliance obligations. This is unacceptable,” he wrote.
“I want to start this morning by saying I am sorry for those failures, particularly to those of you who have had to deal with the frustration and anger of our customers. Things will change. Some of the changes are already underway. My team and I will make it our priority to put things right with our customers and take the necessary steps to make sure they don’t happen again.”
Mr Comyn, 42, was promoted to run CBA after a career of two decades inside the financial giant, raising questions about whether an “insider” could transform the bank’s culture.
In the message on Monday, Mr Comyn said that under his leadership, the bank would “promptly” address issues raised by the royal commission and regulators, and be “more accountable, more transparent, and more focused” on customers.
He said the bank still had a “strong brand and a proud history,” but acknowledged it would face “difficult” times in the future.
Mr Comyn is stepping into the role as CBA faces fierce scrutiny from regulators and the whole industry is put under the microscope of the royal commission into financial misconduct.
CBA is also dealing with explosive allegations from the financial intelligence agency, Austrac, that it repeatedly breached anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws, which triggered a powerful inquiry into the bank’s culture and governance.
The probe, being led by former from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority chair John Laker, is due to deliver its findings to APRA at the end of April, and the report is expected to be made public soon after. The report is expected to be critical of the bank’s management, and its release will be a key early test for Mr Comyn.
Mr Comyn said he had spent the past few weeks speaking with customers, investors, regulators, staff, and community leaders on how it could improve.