(Adds background on unit’s former CEO, regulatory issues)
By Rashmi Ashok
Dec 18 (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd on Wednesday appointed a former chief financial officer of its New Zealand unit as the division’s new chief executive officer.
The internal appointment puts an end to lingering uncertainty since the sudden departure of the unit’s previous CEO over a dispute regarding the mischaracterisation of expenses.
The appointment of Antonia Watson as CEO also comes as Australian banks operating in New Zealand face intense scrutiny from the central bank over management of internal risk controls and higher capital requirements.
Uncertainty has plagued the unit since June, when David Hisco, its former CEO and an ANZ employee since the 1990s, left the company amid a dispute over the logging of payments for chauffeurs and wine storage as business expenses rather than personal.
ANZ’s New Zealand unit has also come under scrutiny from the central bank in recent months.
The bank was ordered last week by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to improve internal risk controls at the unit, citing an external report conducted by Deloitte that was ordered after the departure of Hisco.
In May, the central bank revoked ANZ’s permission to assess its own operational risk capital due to “persistent” control failures.
The sector is facing higher scrutiny from regulators after a government inquiry into the Australian financial sector across the last year found widespread misconduct, leading to banks setting aside millions of dollars each to refund customers.
At its annual general meeting on Tuesday, ANZ said it planned to refund owners of 3.4 million customer accounts for past wrongs but ruled out the need to raise new cash, as its board managed to survive an investor vote over executive pay.
In its Wednesday announcement, ANZ said Auckland-born Watson had also received a non-objection from the country’s central bank for appointment to the position.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand requires a bank to submit information on the prior history and qualifications of a candidate proposed for senior positions, after which it conducts required background checks based on which it may reject or approve the appointment.
Most recently Watson was managing director of retail and business banking at ANZ NZ. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Lincoln Feast.)