Steven Gregg, who was confirmed as Westpac’s Chair at the group’s annual general meeting, said the bank is well positioned for growth after emerging stronger from a significant period of change.
Gregg takes the reins from John McFarlane, who said good progress had been made in simplifying the bank over his nearly four years in the role, with 10 businesses sold over the period.
“Now is the time to look forward with clarity and ambition,” Gregg told the AGM in Brisbane. “The company’s foundations are strong and it is well positioned to compete and grow. Westpac has great potential.”
In his final AGM speech as Chair, McFarlane said his priority had been to maintain or grow the bank’s position in its key markets. In FY23, Westpac posted its strongest financial and operational performance in five years, with net profit rising by 26 per cent, while its capital position remained strong.
Still, McFarlane acknowledged that the bank “remains operationally and technologically complex compared to peers” following historical acquisitions that were not fully integrated.
During his tenure, the group had limited investment capacity to address the issue, with necessary measures to improve risk management given higher priority. But with that work now largely complete, focus would switch to a plan to integrate diverse systems and move to a single technology platform.
CEO Peter King said Westpac will enter 2024 in a strong financial position, well placed to navigate slower economic growth, some revenue headwinds and higher costs.
“We will strive to make banking easier, more intuitive and digital for customers,” King said. “Accelerating the simplification of processes and technology is key to achieving these outcomes.”
The tech transformation program would see the bank’s tech stack reduced by two-thirds, he added.
Westpac announced a refreshed sustainability strategy alongside its annual results in November, including new sector targets for reducing its financed emissions.
Gregg, who is also Chair of fuel retailer Ampol, said delivering on the bank’s climate and sustainability commitments would be a key focus for him in the role.
“My experience at Ampol, which is at the forefront of the energy transition, has been formative and relevant, and has equipped me very well to assist in meeting the challenge ahead of us at Westpac, in addition to helping customers and the economy transition to net-zero,” Gregg said.