Westpac merges tech and operations to form new group operating office

Westpac on Tuesday announced the standing up of a new group operating office that combines the functions of its existing group operations and group technology arms.

Leading the division as its chief operating officer will be Scott Collary, who joins Westpac from Bank of Montreal in Canada where he held the role of chief information and operations officer for its North American personal and business banking, private wealth, and global asset management divisions.

Prior to his post at the Bank of Montreal, Collary held senior positions at ANZ and Citigroup.

Collary will begin his time at Westpac later this year, subject to regulatory approvals.

Westpac CEO Peter King touted Collary’s experience as a “proven track record of delivering large-scale transformation programs at major international banks that improve operating and technology performance”.

“We look forward to Scott leading our technology and operations teams,” King added.

The red and white bank also announced that its COO Gary Thursby has tendered his resignation, and is due to leave Westpac early next year.

Thursby was appointed chief operating officer of Westpac Group in 2019, having been group executive strategy and enterprise services since October 2016.

“Gary has made a significant contribution across a broad range of roles, including as chief strategy and operating officer, as well as running enterprise services and more recently acting CFO,” King said.

“He has been instrumental in developing the organisation’s strategy, including Westpac’s fintech investments, as well as overseeing the implementation of open banking and driving efficiencies in the bank’s operations.”

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In May, Westpac announced the departure of group CIO Craig Bright, who is confirmed to be leaving the bank on September 25. Thursby will act as CIO until Collary’s employment commences, Westpac said.

Bright took on the CIO role in January 2019, following the departure of Dave Curran. Curran led the bank’s technology function since 2014.

Westpac in November lost its CEO Brian Hartzer, following issues raised by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac).

The anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regulator applied to the Federal Court of Australia alleging Westpac was involved in “systemic non-compliance” with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act) on over 23 million occasions.

Specifically, Austrac said the bank had consistently failed to: Assess and monitor ongoing money laundering and terrorism financing risks; report over 19.5 million International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs) to Austrac over nearly five years for transfers both into and out of Australia; pass on information about the source of funds to other banks in the transfer chain; keep records relating to the origin of some of these international funds transfers; and carry out appropriate customer due diligence on transactions in the Philippines and South East Asia that were related to potential child exploitation risks.

After setting aside just over AU$1 billion for Austrac proceedings in its half-year financial results — comprising a provision for a potential penalty of AU$900 million and AU$127 million for a response plan — the bank in May also announced the creation of a new group executive role to allow chief risk officer David Stephen to focus on financial risk.

Westpac in June said “a mix of technology and human error” and “deficient financial crime processes” were to blame for its failure to comply with anti-money laundering obligations.

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