ONE of Australia's most powerful and successful business women, Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly, has announced she is stepping down from the position.
A statement from the bank said her leadership and dedication had seen the value of the company more than double from $50 billion to $104 billion.
She also led the bank's merger with St George.
The current head of Westpac's Australian Financial Services group, Brian Hartzer, is taking over the position.
The news comes just hours after media outlets reports Mrs Kelly's pay had jumped to $12.8 million last financial year, making her the highest paid boss of a retail bank in Australia.
Mrs Kelly's total remuneration surged by more than $1 million, thanks largely to $7 million of previously issued performance shares.
Mrs Kelly's fixed pay was just over $3 million, while her short-term cash incentives were $2.74 million, Fairfax reported.
THE FULL STATEMENT FROM WESTPAC
The Chairman of Westpac Banking Corporation, Lindsay Maxsted, today announced that Gail Kelly has decided to retire as Chief Executive Officer on 1 February 2015.
The Westpac Board has appointed Brian Hartzer to succeed Mrs Kelly as the Group's CEO.
Mr Hartzer is currently Chief Executive, Australian Financial Services, responsible for the Westpac Group's retail, business banking and wealth businesses, including Westpac Retail & Business Banking, St.George Banking Group and BT Financial Group.
Brian has more than 25 years' experience in financial services.
Before joining Westpac in 2012, he was Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Chief Executive Officer UK Retail, Wealth and Ulster Bank.
Mr Hartzer was previously a senior executive at ANZ, including its Chief Executive Officer, Australia, covering that bank's domestic retail, commercial banking and wealth management businesses.
Mr Maxsted said: "On behalf of the Board I want to thank and acknowledge Gail's leadership and outstanding contribution to Westpac.
Gail Kelly one of Australia's most successful CEOs
"She was appointed as the Global Financial Crisis was unfolding and her leadership and dedication has seen Westpac emerge a stronger and better company.
"During her tenure the value of the company has more than doubled, with market capitalisation increasing from just under $50 billion to around $104 billion.
"Gail drove the successful merger with St.George, which saw the Group strengthen its position in retail banking and in wealth.
"At the same time, she reset the organisation's focus on customer service and revitalised Westpac's branch network through Westpac Local.
"Her leadership galvanised the Group's divisions to work together as one team, ensuring the best outcome for customers across their total financial services needs.
"Gail's passion for people has resulted in the development of a diverse and highly engaged workforce. She has personally driven the growth of women in senior executive roles, mature aged workers and those who work part-time.
"One of Gail's many strengths has been her development of an outstanding executive team. This nurturing of talent has not only enabled the Board to choose an internal candidate for succession, it sets the Group up for success beyond her tenure.
"Gail leaves the Group in strong shape, and well placed to compete in the next phase of our strategy," Mr Maxsted said.
Gail Kelly says it has been great honour to lead Westpac
Mrs Kelly said: "It has been a great honour for me to be the CEO of this wonderful company. It has been an amazing seven years, during which time Westpac has fundamentally transformed and grown.
"I am very proud of how we tackled the stresses and challenges of the Global Financial Crisis, supporting our customers while at the same time materially strengthening our balance sheet.
"I am also very pleased with our successful merger with St.George. We now have a strong set of customer-centred brands, all performing well and setting us apart from our competitors. Most of all, I am proud of our people and the way they support our customers, each other and the community, every day.
"As our recent results show, the Westpac Group is very well positioned with strong momentum and a high quality team. This is an excellent time to hand the reins to our next CEO, who will take the Group through to our bicentennial celebrations and beyond.
"I'm delighted Brian Hartzer has been appointed to the role. Brian and I have worked closely during the past two and a half years.
"He is a proven leader and a wonderful fit for the Westpac culture. This is an exciting time for the Group," she said.
Mr Maxsted said having assessed the market both locally and globally, Mr Hartzer was the right person to succeed Mrs Kelly.
"Brian is a world class executive who brings to the role a deep knowledge of banking and financial services, both in Australia and globally.
"Under his leadership AFS has delivered outstanding results, achieving compound earnings growth of 10% over three years, while reducing the division's cost to income ratio by almost two and a half percentage points.
"Brian's passion for customers and people is evident in everything he does, with AFS making significant headway in customer satisfaction and employee engagement under his stewardship.
"He has ensured that AFS has a clear strategy and strong management team. He is an inclusive leader who has demonstrated an innate ability to unite people behind a common purpose.
"Importantly, Brian has the experience, skills and energy to continue Westpac's strong financial performance as well as engage effectively with all stakeholders including customers, employees, investors and regulators."
Mr Hartzer said: "It is a great privilege to be chosen to lead the Westpac Group. It is an exciting time for the organisation as we are poised to become the first Australian company to enter our third century in business.
"Gail leaves a first class organisation. Westpac has a proud history of helping customers and supporting the economic development of the country.
"I intend to strengthen that leadership by making Westpac one of the world's great service businesses, pushing the boundaries in digital transformation, and delivering strong results so that we are the best performing bank in the region."
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