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Westpac taps board veteran Steven Gregg as Chair

07:45am October 16 2023

Steven Gregg (left) will take over from John McFarlane (right) as Chair of Westpac at the bank's AGM in December. (Sahlan Hayes)

Steven Gregg is no stranger to the board rooms of corporate Australia.

The 62-year-old has not only served as a director and chair of several ASX100 companies, he’s also advised them in an earlier life as a senior corporate banker and McKinsey partner.

Now he’ll bring his four decades of experience to Westpac when he takes over from John McFarlane as the bank’s Chair on December 14.

“Westpac is a wonderful company, the oldest company in the country, the first bank, and an organisation that has so much potential”, said Gregg.

“I’m looking forward to making a big contribution.”

The incoming Chair will build on the legacy of McFarlane, who as Chair since 2020 has overseen the dramatic simplification of the company under CEO Peter King. 

“When I took on this role, I made a commitment to shareholders to build a customer-focused digital bank and create a leaner, more agile and better performing company”, said McFarlane, who wraps up his tenure at the Westpac AGM in Brisbane on December 14.

“We have made great progress in achieving these goals and turning Westpac around and I’m confident that Steven will build on that success, working closely with Peter, the executive team and directors,” he said.

Steven Gregg has already identified his priorities in the role as the company looks to the future: repositioning for growth, stepping up the work on technology transformation, delivering better service for customers and better value for shareholders.

“From my observation, Westpac is in a period of transition,” he said.

“It’s been a very difficult and consuming last three years but now is the time to look forward and have a strong ambition.” 

Gregg has had a successful career as a corporate banker and director and chair of several ASX100 companies. (Sahlan Hayes)

Gregg joins the Westpac board after a long career in corporate and investment banking which began at AMP Morgan Grenfell as a Treasury economist in the early 1980s. He worked for Chase Manhattan Bank and Lehman Brothers in Europe and the US before joining ABN AMRO in 1997. There he rose to become the Head of the Bank’s UK operations.

“I spent over 20 years in London and New York and had a number of career highlights which were very seminal to my position today,” Gregg said.

In particular, he nominates the experience running a large P&L at ABN AMRO, coupled with the strategic focus required when advising clients, boards and chief executives in investment and corporate banking.

“Running ABN AMRO in Great Britain was a very important part of my career and very relevant to this role at Westpac. After that, coming back to Australia was a great opportunity to change course.”

The change in course led Gregg through McKinsey as a partner and senior adviser in Asia to a career as a non-executive director at a range of Australian companies including Goodman Fielder, Challenger Financial Group, Austock, Tabcorp and Ampol, where he remains Chair. 

At Goodman Fielder, Gregg oversaw a significant restructure and sale of the prominent food manufacturing business in 2014. 

“Taking on the Chair role at Goodman Fielder, which was Australia’s largest listed food manufacturer, was very challenging. It was a company that had major structural impediments and trying to restructure that company in the context of the market was very challenging and very satisfying to get an outcome for shareholders down the line,” he said.

As Chair of Ampol, Gregg has worked with CEO Matt Halliday as the company completed a major rebrand from Caltex to Ampol and began rolling out electric vehicle charging infrastructure to service stations across the country. 

“In my 15 year board career, joining the Ampol board—Caltex at the time—and taking that company from an old style oil-based company to the new Ampol with new energy and transitioning to the new world has been a real highlight.”

Outgoing Chair John McFarlane says Gregg will bring a fresh perspective to the Westpac Board.

“He has deep experience chairing consumer-focused companies, a strong track record of disciplined decision making and contributions to board oversight of organisations undergoing technology transformation,” McFarlane said.

The Sydney-based director joins the Board from November 7 and takes over as Chair on December 14.

“There are so many things to look forward to at Westpac: working with a great team, taking the organisation to the next level and helping it move forward.”

James Thornhill was appointed as editor of Westpac Wire in May 2022. Prior to joining the bank, he was a business and financial journalist with more than two decades of experience with international newswires. Most recently, he was a resources correspondent for Bloomberg, covering the mining and energy sectors, and previously reported on a broad range of topics from economics and politics to currency and bond markets. Originally from the UK, he’s had stints working in London, New York and Singapore, but is now happily settled in Sydney.

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