KPMG Consulting partner Michael Rowland new CFO of Westpac

20 July 2020 2 min. read
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Michael Rowland, a partner in KPMG’s consulting division, has left the Big Four to join Westpac where he has been installed as chief financial officer, ending a near six-month job search.

The appointment comes six months after Australia’s second-largest bank revamped its top leadership after last November's revelations of a major money-laundering scandal that sparked the departure of several former leaders. Veteran banker John McFarlane was appointed chairman early this year, while in April the former chief financial officer Peter King was shifted to the chief executive officer role.

The man filling his shoes Michael Rowland brings over two decades of experience to the role. Rowland spent the past five years at KPMG where he was a partner in its Management Consulting practice, focused on the financial services vertical. He led teams focused on strategy and transformation execution, performance optimisation through revenue, cost and capital productivity, organisational change, M&A, integration and separation, and finance function improvement.

Before that, Rowland among others held executive positions at ANZ Bank, and was the finance chief at ING Australia. He started his career at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co (now KPMG) and in 1993 he was admitted as a partner in the firm’s Tax practice.

KPMG Consulting partner Michael Rowland new CFO of Westpac

According to King, Rowland’s experience across both CFO and business leadership roles makes him the right candidate to bring stability back to its battered finance function. “In particular, Michael’s expertise in business restructuring, delivering sustainable productivity and revenue programs and in disciplined financial management will be an important contributor to making Westpac a stronger bank,” he said.

King added that Rowland’s experience at KPMG will bring “valuable external perspectives” to the country's oldest bank. 

After assuming the chief executive role, King has vowed to overhaul Westpac’s operations. Measures on the table include rationalising parts of the banking group, divesting a number of units including wealth businesses, and re-designing how Westpac oversees its financial economic crime compliance. 

Meanwhile, Westpac is under pressure from shareholders to cut costs after its latest filings showed that profit margins have been crunched by a mix of factors such as a growing cost base and ultra-low interest rates. Westpac’s cost to income ratio is currently hovering around the 60% mark, compared to for instance 53% for ANZ and 44% for Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Rowland’s appointment is subject to regulatory approval, which is expected to receive green light in the third quarter. Gary Thurby will continue as Westpac’s acting chief financial officer until Rowland is formally installed.