Gail Kelly, Australia’s Most Powerful Female CEO, Is Leaving Westpac

Westpac CEO Gail Kelly / Westpac

Gail Kelly, Australia’s best paid CEO of a major bank, is stepping down as head of Westpac.

This comes a day after Westpac’s annual report revealed she was the highest paid head of a bank in Australia with a $12.8 million annual salary package.

The 58-year-old South African-born Australian businesswoman in 2008 became the first female CEO of a major Australian bank.

A mother of four children including triplets, Kelly is known for her relentless work ethic (she sleeps around four hours a night).

During her tenure the value of the company has more than doubled, with market capitalisation increasing from just under $50 billion to around $104 billion. Kelly, who has been rated by Forbes as among the 100 most powerful women in the world, will retire from the bank on February 1.

She will be replaced by Brian Hartzer, currently Chief Executive of Westpac’s Australian Financial Services. He was previously a senior executive at RBS and ANZ, where he was CEO for Australia.

Kelly says it had been a great honour to be the CEO of Wetpac.

“It has been an amazing seven years, during which time Westpac has fundamentally transformed and grown,” she says.

“I am very proud of how we tackled the stresses and challenges of the Global Financial Crisis, supporting our customers while at the same time materially strengthening our balance sheet. As our recent results show, the Westpac Group is very well positioned with strong momentum and a high quality team.”

Kelly was at the forefront of the Australian banking industry’s explanation for the higher cost of borrowing in the wake of the GFC, appearing regularly on television shows such as ABC’s Q&A.

Westpac this month announced a full year record cash profit of $7.628 billion, up 8% and better than expectations by three percentage points.

In a statement to the ASX, Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted said: “Gail is one of Australia’s most successful CEOs. She was appointed as the Global Financial Crisis was unfolding and her leadership and dedication has seen Westpac emerge a stronger and better company. During her tenure the value of the company has more than doubled, with market capitalisation increasing from just under $50 billion to around $104 billion.”

Maxsted said Hartzer had been appointed after looking at local and international candidates, and was “a world class executive who brings to the role a deep knowledge of banking and financial services, both in Australia and globally.”

“Brian’s passion for customers and people is evident in everything he does, with AFS making significant headway in customer satisfaction and employee engagement under his stewardship,” Maxsted said. “He has ensured that AFS has a clear strategy and strong management team. He is an inclusive leader who has demonstrated an innate ability to unite people behind a common purpose.”

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