Australia: Westpac whirlwind sweeps up St George
Just a few months into the chief executive role at Westpac, Gail Kelly has bought out her former employer, St George Bank. A convinced advocate of the power of branding, Kelly has pledged that St George will retain its identity. Chris Wright spoke to Kelly about the prospects for the combined entity.
"To have customers who are delighted by their bank – that’s a huge challenge. And I’m up for that challenge"
Gail Kelly, Westpac
AS GRAND ENTRANCES go, Gail Kelly’s start at Westpac takes some beating. She began work as chief executive of the bank, one of the Big Four that dominate Australia’s financial landscape, in February. Just three months later, she struck a transformational $18 billion deal to acquire another bank – and not just any bank, but the one she’d recently left – St George Bank. The merger will create the largest bank by market capitalization in the Southern Hemisphere. Clearly, Kelly likes to hit the ground running. But there are several other things that make it interesting and unusual to find her in the chief executive’s corner office at Westpac’s inspirational new HQ on Sydney’s Kent Street, overlooking the old Darling Harbour wharves. Most obviously, there’s the fact that she’s the only female chief executive of an Australian blue-chip company, arguably the only really important female corporate executive in the country since the departure of long-standing Qantas chair Margaret Jackson.