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Westpac’s brain drain pain

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The chief executive of its institutional business is the latest in a string of departures from the embattled bank as it deals with financial regulation and COVID-19.

Lyn Cobley, chief executive of Westpac Institutional Bank, is the latest high-flyer to depart from the bank following the poaching of David Lindberg and Craig Bright by international banks.

“Lyn navigated institutional banking during a period of intense global competitive pressures and structural changes across these markets following the global financial crisis,” said CEO Peter King. “Under Lyn’s leadership, the Westpac Institutional Bank team has worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the bank’s government, corporate and institutional customers, most particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Given that Westpac has been hemorrhaging executives since the AUSTRAC debacle, one would be forgiven for thinking that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. But Ms Cobley says it was simply time to move on. 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed a long and varied banking career,” Ms Cobley said. “However, having held executive positions through a number of significant events, including the GFC and this year the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now time to step back and develop a portfolio career, including board positions.”

But given that COVID-19 is the exact reason that new CEO Mr King is still in the position – and the fact that the institutional banking business was the source of the 23 million breaches in AML/CTF legislation that the bank has now admitted to – it might be reasonable to think Ms Cobley simply saw the writing on the wall. Her departure leaves Mr King and Westpac’s board with three key roles to fill as it grapples with massive credit losses and a potential AUSTRAC penalty of more than a billion dollars. 

Ms Cobley took the reins in 2015 following the departure of Rob Whitfield. Curt Zuber, group treasurer, will act as chief executive while an international search is undertaken for Ms Cobley’s replacement.

 

Westpac’s brain drain pain
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