Former Barclays exec John McFarlane to chair Westpac

23 January 2020, Written by David Simmons

Former Barclays exec John McFarlane to chair Westpac

Westpac (ASX: WBC) has appointed John McFarlane (pictured) as chairman after the AUSTRAC money laundering scandal triggered Lindsay Maxstead's resignation from the role.

McFarlane is the former chairman of British multinational investment bank Barclays and has more than four decades' experience in the financial services sector.

The bank says his experience will assist the company in overcoming the allegations made by AUSTRAC, which also forced former CEO Brian Hartzer to step down.

Maxstead, who announced her resignation in November but will depart in April, says McFarlane's experience "will be invaluable to Westpac as the organisation executes its strategy and implements its Response Plan for the AUSTRAC Statement of Claim".

"As Chairman-Elect, Mr McFarlane will be responsible for appointing a permanent CEO, with an internal and external search process currently underway. In the interim, he will work closely with the Acting CEO, Peter King and the Board, to effect needed change."

Maxstead and Hartzer's resignation followed allegations from AUSTRAC that the banking group contravened the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) on more than 23 million occasions.

The corporate regulator claimed Westpac failed to report over 19.5 million international funds transfer instructions to AUSTRAC over a period of nearly five years and failed to carry out proper due diligence on transactions in South East Asia that have known financial hallmarks relating to potential child exploitation risks.

Maxstead says McFarlane is the man for the job of turning Westpac around given his more than 44 years experience in financial services including a main board directorship at five leading financial institutions

"Most recently, Mr McFarlane was chairman at Barclays in London, which after the global financial crisis underwent a decade of challenge," says Maxstead.

"During his four years as chairman, the company was streamlined, repositioned and has sustainably returned to profit."

72-year-old McFarlane says he is ready for the challenges Westpac may throw at him, despite being ready for retirement.

"People close to me know that on my return to Australia, I hadn't intended to take another major leadership role," says McFarlane.

"However, I'm passionate about the Australian banking sector, and I'm excited by the challenge of returning Westpac to its place as a leading global bank, following recent events."

"To some extent, the internal and external challenges ahead for Westpac are not dissimilar to those in my last five financial institutions, and I have therefore grown comfortable about my capacity to work with the Board and management to effect the necessary change."

"Nevertheless, I'm sufficiently battle-hardened to realise things can be tougher than you think and that in banking, nothing is ever certain."

Shares in Westpac are down 0.08 per cent to $25.12 per share at 10.10am AEDT.

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Business News Australia

Author: David Simmons





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