Westpac CEO Keeps Focus on Risk Management Systems

Westpac CEO Keeps Focus on Risk Management Systems
A pedestrian looks at his phone as he walks past a logo for Australia's Westpac Banking Corp located outside a branch in central Sydney, Australia, Nov. 5, 2018. (Reuters/David Gray)

Westpac chief executive Peter King has named fixing the bank's risk management as his top priority in the wake of its money laundering scandal, after a blast from a financial regulator.

King said addressing Westpac's shortcomings in risk was critical, and he accepted the need to work faster, as per the finding of an Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority review.

King addressed the bank's annual general meeting on December 11 after a tumultuous 12 months for Westpac.

APRA's review of how the bank breached anti-money laundering laws 23 million times between 2013 and 2018 culminated in a $1.3 billion fine.

Westpac executives and APRA have formed a legal agreement on measures the bank will take to improve risk governance.

King said simplifying the bank was a second priority.

He said the recent sales of the insurance and Pacific businesses showed this progress.

His third priority was improving performance, which will be done by focusing on better returns and lowering costs.

Chairman John McFarlane named COVID-19, the fine and a weaker economy as major forces in the past 12 months.

"It's clear we need to change substantially the way Westpac operates," he said.

Shares were lower by 0.2 percent to $19.95 at 1150 AEDT.

Steven Deare in Sydney