The list of high flying execs out the door of David Murray’s CBA grows, with the loss of his latest ‘golden boy’.
Excuse me, David, but you may have just lost another potential successor for
your job as CEO of the Commonwealth Bank.
I know that you are safely in position for a few more years yet, but the steady
drift of senior executives away from the bank continues. It must be quite
alarming to the board, and the latest more so, given his close involvement with
the $1.5 billion revamp of the retailing banking business that will see
hundreds of staff lose their jobs.
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But call it gardening leave, call it long service leave, call it a sabbatical,
but the Commonwealth Bank continues to fumble the fate of the man who has
driven the revamp.
Adrian Sozenza is his name and earlier this month he was reported as being on
sick leave, sacked or in something resembling purgatory. Thursday of this week
he was off on six months long service leave, replaced by a workmate.
So fast was his replacement that by mid evening last night the replacement,
Grahame Petersen, was on the CBA website, CV and all, in the slot occupied by
Adrian, CBA’s Group Executive Strategic Development.
The Australian Financial Review Friday finally cottoned on to the steady drain
of talent out of the CBA that Crikey alerted readers to last month – Which
Adrian’s departure for six months follows the loss of his deputy Mukesh Parekh
in April, raising doubts, which Murray has so far settled, that the retail
revamp had not been going well.
There have been rumours inside the CBA for months now that Adrian was having
troubles. But the bank continued to deny them, with the seemingly standard
comment being that he was on “leave”. This varied from holiday, to sick leave, to a short rest.
Well now Adrian is on long service leave, according to a statement Thursday
from the CBA.
He’s joined some of those he’s helped make redundant who have taken long
service leave to ease the pain of the restructuring.
Without any explanation Big Dave Murray, revealed Adrian’s decision to take
more than six month’s leave.
Curious that decision of Adrian’s to take long service leave only 10 months
into what is a three year program of improvement.
From reports inside the bank the revamp has been conducted fairly brutally, but
honestly with most managers being chopped realising that they were on a list
for some time. But it has led to complaints about over loading the survivors with work and
responsibility. In David Murray’s CBA, complaints like that are taken as signs of weakness,
not a cry for help.
Grahame Petersen, who has been working on the customer part of the project
takes over from Adrian. Grahame is also ‘leading the integration of the
Commonwealth and Colonial funds management services and products”.
That’s still going on? Gosh hasn’t Colonial been integrated yet?
But when you look at Adrian’s track record inside the bank you start to
appreciate why he got the job of running the latest revamp, and why he was so
highly-ranked. Being more than ten years younger than David Murray, he was a
real contender to fill Murray’s position, but now he’s gone on long leave.
Will he return and to where in the bank? The CBA wasn’t saying.
According to Adrian’s CV, he’s something of a high flyer inside the CBA. He was
appointed Group Executive Group Strategic Development and Office of the CEO in
December 2001. Group Strategic Development leads development of the Bank’s
corporate strategy and assesses growth opportunities including merger and
acquisition and divestment opportunities.
Adrian lead the group strategy work and been very closely involved with the
design and planning of the Bank’s recently announced service transformation
He has held director positions in a number of Bank subsidiaries including
travel subsidiary (Travelstrength), Mondex Australia and Mondex Australasia,
Homepath Pty Ltd. He also had directorships on ASB Bank and Mastercard Asia
Pacific. He has recently been appointed to the Visa Asia Pacific Board.
Adrian also has had overseas experience, first in completing his MBA in
Switzerland and then a few years in retail financial services in the UK.He was
also described in his website CV as “key member” in the group that
negotiated the purchase of the Auckland-based ASB in New Zealand, and was also
described as the youngest ever executive in the CBA when appointed as the Chief
Manager overseeing the integration of the State Bank of Victoria. That
transaction was the trigger for the partial privatisation of the CBA in the
“During his time as Assistant General Manager Personal Banking in the mid
90’s Adrian held line management responsibility for the mortgage, credit card,
personal loan transaction and deposit businesses. It was during Adrian’s
leadership of the mortgage portfolio that CBA led the market repositioning of
home loans in response to the intensive competition from new mortgage
originators. This resulted in CBA stabilizing and commencing to rebuild its
market share. During this time Adrian also held line management responsibility
for marketing, distribution management, human resources including industrial
relations, finance, e-commerce development and sales and service development of
the Personal Bank.”
You get the drift. A veritable ‘golden boy’, fastracked, a high flyer, a CEO’s
dream. Clearly he has been tested at higher and higher levels of the CBA and
So it’s no wonder Murray gave him oversight of the biggest project the bank has
yet attempted, the wholesale revamp of the retail banking operations which
remain the most profitable and important part of the bank’s businesses.
Lots of reputations, and bonus money and other remuneration depends on these
change program succeeding.
The CBA’s share price has eased, then strengthened as Murray led a publicity
campaign designed to assure investors the plan was on track, ahead of budget in
fact was the message.
So what went wrong with the executive Murray and the board charged with driving
the whole plan? His ‘problems’, what ever they have been, have seen him out of
the loop for up to four months, according to CBA insiders. More information is
needed than the bald statement issued by David Murray on Thursday evening.
But Murray and the CBA have more problems to confront in the retail area.
Friday’s newspapers carried stories from the Finance Sector Union about
possible legal action over a pay offer to CBA staff and rising discontent about
the size of the cuts being made in the revamp.
The union should also look at the way the CBA has screwed many non union
members over the past nine years by freezing their retirement benefits at 1995
levels. That’s for terminations, redundancies, long service leave and holiday
It’s really cheese paring of the worst kind. The pay and benefits of David
Murray and the board haven’t been frozen at 1995 levels so is it fair that a
large group of managers (which are being reduced by the current 25 per cent
cut in back office numbers in retail services) have this dubious benefit
imposed on them?