A new CEO signals more of the same for Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA) announced this morning that it has selected a new CEO to replace outgoing executive Ian Narev after 6 years in the role. Matt Comyn, current head of the retail banking branch, will be the new CEO and commence his role on 9 April 2018.

Comyn has worked in the banking industry for 20 years, and has been head of Commbank’s retail branch since 2012. Prior to that he ran the bank’s Commsec broking business from 2006 to 2010, a time when it grew rapidly to become one of Australia’s largest online brokerages.

While well qualified and eminently suitable for the role, to my mind Comyn’s appointment also signals ‘more of the same’ from a bank that’s repeatedly come under fire for its monolithic attitude towards its customers.

After numerous scandals in life insurance and financial planning, Commbank was hit with allegations late last year that the bank’s lax systems had potentially allowed criminals to launder money through its ATMs. Its continuous involvement in scandals, going as far back as the Storm Financial collapse in 2009, was also reportedly a major factor in the decision to establish a Royal Commission into Australia’s financial industry.

There is also a certain irony in appointing the head of the retail bank (which is responsible for the ATMs used for alleged money-laundering) as the new CEO to replace a CEO that is being effectively removed for alleged money laundering through the retail bank. That’s not a criticism of either Comyn’s or Narev’s character or ability, but it doesn’t suggest that there will be sweeping changes at Commbank.

As a result, shareholders must surely question if this appointment will signal a true cultural change at the bank or if it will be ‘more of the same’. Given the regulatory issues in the past and present – and the Royal Commission – regulatory risks and the importance of getting the organisational culture right will surely be heightened.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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