CBA’s new boss apologises for past ‘failures’ on first day

Matt Comyn has promised "things will change" at the bank under his leadership.

Matt Comyn has promised "things will change" at the bank under his leadership. Photo: AAP

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn has conceded that he and other senior executives are responsible for mistakes that have helped shatter the reputation of Australia’s biggest financial institution.

On his first day since replacing former CEO Ian Narev, Mr Comyn has written to 51,000 Commonwealth Bank staff admitting that senior management had not done enough to protect customers who are now questioning the CBA’s credibility after a range of scandals.

“We have made mistakes. That starts with me and our senior executives. We have let some of our customers down when they have needed us most,” Mr Comyn wrote.

“In doing so we have let you down.

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

“There is a lot for us to be proud of.

“But the reality is that while we have got a lot of things right for most of our customers, we haven’t got it right for all of them.”

Mr Comyn, CBA’s former head of retail banking, has inherited dealing with the fallout from Mr Narev’s reign — including the financial services royal commission and allegations that the bank breached anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing laws on almost 54,000 occasions.

He was appointed as CBA chief executive in late January and was one of Mr Narev’s closest executives as he managed other scandals such as unethical practices at the bank’s former insurance arm CommInsure.

‘Difficult’ times ahead

But in this morning’s staff letter, Mr Comyn did not sidestep responsibility for the cause and effects of the scandals and pledged to change culture at the Commonwealth Bank.

“I want to start this morning by saying I am sorry for those failures, particularly to those of you who have had to deal with the frustration and anger of our customers,” Mr Comyn wrote.

“Things will change. Some of the changes are already underway.

“My team and I will make it our priority to put things right with our customers and take the necessary steps to make sure they don’t happen again.”

Mr Comyn said CBA will “promptly address” issues raised by the royal commission and regulators, conceding there are “some difficult” times ahead.

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

“We have the talent, the commitment and the determination to get it done. I know we will emerge as a stronger and better bank.”

In addition to the royal commission and court proceedings by the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, Mr Comyn is bracing for a final report from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, which is due on April 30.

APRA’s report will examine governance, culture and accountability at the Commonwealth Bank.


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