Brian Harzter has just been passed the Westpac baton, and will now guide the bank into a new era under his leadership.
With a wealth of experience under his belt from other banking institutions, locally and internationally, he will have to utilise all the skills he has learned to fill the mighty shoes of predecessor Gail Kelly.
We had a dig around his past to find a few things you may not have known about Westpac’s new CEO.
Here’s what we learned:
1. He earned a bomb when he signed on for Westpac
When Hartzer joined Westpace back in 2012, he earned himself a whopping $8.6 million sign-on bonus – the third largest ever sign-on bonus for a banker in Australia. Ahmed Fahour received $11.9 million when he joined National Australia Bank in 2004 and Mike Smith was paid about $9 million in shares to become ANZ Banking Group chief executive in 2007.
Upon taking the top job, Hartzer will take home a base salary of $2.7 million, pro-rated short-term incentives of $2.7 million, and will be eligible for pro-rated long-term incentives of $2.5 million.
2. He likes a challenge
Despite being well positioned to become a potential leader of both ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank in 2009, Hartzer chose to join RBS to run its retail banking business in the UK at the height of the global financial crisis.
During this stint, he ran a branch network much bigger than that at Westpac, and faced an environment where bankers were under severe pressure from both governments and regulators.
3. He thinks banks need to be act like startups
In a speech to the Centre for Economic Development of Australia in July this year, Hartzer said Westpac was trying to “think and act like a 200-year-old start-up company” as it faced rapidly changing customer demands.
“Disruption happens when businesses don’t pay close enough attention to the needs of their customers,” he said.
“We also know that new business models are developing – and they won’t fit neatly inside our current operating model.”
He said banks need to act as “disruptors”.
4. He’s a Yank
An American by birth, Hartzer is an Australian citizen. Despite spending a large part of his career overseas, including in management consulting roles in New York and San Francisco, he has retained his citizenship.
5. He’s a Princeton graduate
Hartzer graduated from Princeton University in 1989 with a degree in European History and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.
6. He’s for equality too
Following Kelly’s lead, Hartzer has told Finsia he became much more “viscerally understanding” of the challenges that women, and particularly women with children, face in the workforce when he had children.
“To the extent there was a lightbulb moment, it was when I came to Australia and found that the same level of women in senior leadership positions wasn’t there,” he said.
“I do remember one little ‘a-ha moment’ when someone pointed out that when you schedule meetings at 8 in the morning, you’re making it very difficult for a woman with children, or a man with children for that matter, to actually participate fully.”
7. He wants to increase the size of the skilled workforce in Australia
Hartzer says if increased it will give Australia the opportunity to compete successfully.
“In Silicon Valley, 40% of start-ups have an immigrant founder, including Google, Ebay, Facebook, Yahoo, and arguably Apple, since Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian immigrant,” he said.
“And where would Australia be without entrepreneurs like Frank Lowy, Harry Triguboff and Victor Smorgon, or world-renowned research biologist Sir Gus Nossal, the late heart specialist Dr Victor Chang, and the inventor of spray-on-skin, Dr Fiona Wood?
“My point is that skilled immigration and innovation are connected.”
8. He does work for charity
Between 2006 and 2008 Hartzer was the chairman of Save the Children Australia. While there, he and his team implemented sponsorship program, such as Imagine, which focused on providing health, parenting support, education and training for children and communities living in poverty.
“Despite Australia being one of the wealthiest countries in the world about 12 per cent of Australians live below the poverty line – many of them children,” he said.
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