Tech-savvy career banker was part of Narev’s inner circle

Since he was in his mid twenties, new Commonwealth Bank chief executive Matt Comyn has worked on an almost uninterrupted basis for the country’s largest bank.

The appointment of a career banker – in contrast to his predecessor Ian Narev, a former management consultant – is being viewed as a sign CBA is keen to make sure it does not disrupt its position as a profit-making powerhouse, which may have been a risk with an external CEO.

Mr Comyn, 42, comes to the job after running the bank’s vast and highly-profitable retail banking division for the last five and a half years, a job where he reported to Mr Narev.

In this role, Mr Comyn has been responsible for a business that accounts for more than half of CBA’s near $10 billion in annual profit, and he is well regarded among bank-watchers in the financial markets.

Mr Comyn, who is married, has three children and lives in Sydney, is one of a group of several young tech-savvy senior executives appointed by Mr Narev to his inner circle.

Given the size of retail banking and its importance to CBA, Mr Comyn has long been seen as a potential contender to replace Mr Narev, but his chances appeared to have been dealt a setback by the money laundering compliance scandal that has engulfed CBA since last August.

The general view among bank-watchers was that internal candidates including Mr Comyn had been tainted by the Austrac scandal, which involved alleged money laundering via ATMs, which partly fall under the retail banking division.

Yet CBA chair Catherine Livingstone on Tuesday signalled the board had opted for stability, saying Mr Comyn had the best mix of skills needed to restore its reputation and deal with longer-term challenges created by technological change.

One banking investor said the appointment of Mr Comyn suggested the board did not see a need for drastic changes at CBA, aside from the need to improve its reputation.

“If Narev had left in normal circumstances then he would have got the job anyway,” the investor said.

Technology is viewed as one of Mr Comyn’s strong-suits. It is generally accepted that CBA’s digital banking systems are ahead of those of rivals’ systems, and on Monday Mr Comyn said he wanted to maintain this leadership. Before running retail banking Mr Comyn was head of its online stockbroking unit, CommSec.

CLSA analyst Brian Johnson said it was a “significant” point that in Mr Comyn, the CBA board had opted for a banker with deep banking experience, as opposed to a management consultant. An internal candidate and long-time banker such as Mr Comyn woud be less disruptive than an external appointment, Mr Johnson said.

“He’s got retail banking skills. The value is in CBA as it is,” Mr Johnson said. “They’ve got the most profitable bank in . The issue of disruption and slowing down momentum is a real issue.”

After joining CBA in 1999, Mr Comyn oversaw a period of market share growth at CommSec between 2006 and 2010, before leaving to briefly run Morgan Stanley’s wealth business in . He returned to CBA after about six months, running the bank’s small business lending.

Mr Comyn has a Bachelor of Aviation and Masters of Commerce from the University of New South Wales, and has also completed MBA, and studied in the United States.

After university, Mr Comyn worked for an aviation business, before joining CBA in 1999. He initially worked at CommSec, working his way up to become managing director of the stockbroking business in 2006.

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