Awards for Excellence 2008: Australia
Best bank: Westpac
Best equity and M&A house: UBS
Best debt house: HSBC
In February, Westpac gained a new chief executive, the much-admired Gail Kelly, who had transformed St George Bank from a second-tier bank to a powerful and genuine alternative to Australia’s big four. She wasted little time in embarking on a transformational strategy, confirming in May that her new bank was in talks with her old one to merge and create Australia’s biggest financial services group.
Whether or not that deal goes through Westpac is on a propitious path. Although not (yet) the biggest of the big four, it has 7 million customers and 1,000 branches, and its ratios are among the best in the business: 22.7% return on equity as of its interim results in May, a 34% year-on-year increase in net profit despite a miserable credit environment, a strong capital position and a well-diversified funding profile.