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"Difficult times ahead" for Commonwealth Bank


New Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn has warned there are difficult times ahead as his institution faces up to a series of failures he has labelled “unacceptable”.

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Comyn took charge of Australia’s largest lender today and immediately promised that the bank, which has been accused of regulatory breaches and short-changing customers, will smarten up its act and become more accountable.

The former retail banking boss was among executives to lose bonuses last year after financial regulator AUSTRAC accused CBA of breaching money laundering and counter-terrorism laws and he now says the bank still had to make things right on multiple fronts.

“We have not done enough to protect our customers; that starts with me and our senior executives,” Comyn wrote in a letter to staff.

“We have been too slow to fix mistakes and we have failed to meet some important regulatory and compliance obligations – this is unacceptable.”

Comyn said it would not be easy to rebuild trust.

“We have some difficult times ahead,” Comyn said.

Comyn got his shot at the top job after Ian Narev retired following a series of scandals that culminated with the AUSTRAC allegations.

CBA’s new CEO said the bank was acknowledging its failings, which the banking royal commission has heard include reckless lending, IT failings, mis-sold insurance, and other unfair treatment of customers.

“We will promptly address the issues raised by the royal commission and our regulators,” Comyn wrote.

“We will be more accountable, more transparent, and more focused on our customers.”

CBA will be in Federal Court-ordered mediation with AUSTRAC until as late as May 25 over allegations of the more than 53,000 money-laundering and terrorism funding breaches.

APRA is still engaged in an inquiry examining CBA’s frameworks and reactions to scandals including the AUSTRAC case.

Since being named CEO in January, Comyn – a 42-year-old father-of-three – has scrapped the sale of add-on insurance policies that had attracted the ire of customers and regulators, and decided to replace three of his predecessor’s senior executives.

“I’ve spent time with our customers, regulators, investors, community leaders, and many of you talking about what we can do better,” Comyn said.

“I’ve also spoken with customers who have come up to me on the street to share their criticism and their expectations of what we need to do differently.”

With much on his plate, Comyn’s first high-profile public appearance might not come until CBA’s full-year results in August.

“I will be spending time in our offices, branches and contact centres,” he said

“Together, we will earn the trust and confidence of our customers and the community.”


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