Australia's biggest bank gets new boss

SYDNEY, July 22, 2011 (AFP) - Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth, on Friday appointed New Zealander Ian Narev as its new chief executive and he indicated the company's strategy will not change significantly.

Narev, a former lawyer and once a child star of 1979 New Zealand television series Children of Fire Mountain, will replace compatriot Ralph Norris who retires in November.

"There is going to be a very strong continuity with the strategy," said Narev, 44, who has been with Commonwealth Bank of Australia since 2007 and is currently head of the business and private banking division.

"In saying that, there are going to be some differences, that's inevitable whenever a leadership baton changes hands, even when it's internal."

He added that he was looking forward to "continuing the focus on transforming the group to become Australia's finest financial services organisation and continuing to move that aspiration selectively into Asia".

Chairman David Turner called Narev "an extraordinary executive", who led the bank's Aus$2.1 billion ($2.3 billion) acquisition of Bankwest in 2008 and another deal to take a large stake in Aussie Home Loans.

"He has restructured and revitalised business and private banking which has delivered double digit revenue and profit growth with significant efficiency gains," he said.

"He is a proven and inclusive leader."

In a statement, the bank said he would be paid a fixed Aus$2.5 million a year and be eligible for a short-term incentive of Aus$2.5 million.

He is also eligible to be paid another Aus$2.5 million in long-term incentive payments if he achieves key performance targets set by the bank's board.

Norris has been in the role for six years.

"Both Ralph and the board felt this was the right time to appoint the next CEO," Turner added.

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