ANZ New Zealand has named Antonia Watson as its new chief executive after a six month hunt for a replacement for disgraced former chief executive David Hisco.
Hisco left the bank in June over an expenses scandal which involved wine storage and chauffeur-driven cars.
He had been New Zealand chief executive for nine years and had worked his way up the ranks at the bank from the shop floor.
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As head of retail and business banking, Watson has been holding the fort as acting chief executive and had been open about wanting the top job.
She told the Herald after the bank's financial result in November that she had applied for the role.
"I have applied and yes I am keen. I am very energised about coming to work to oversee two million customers and to look after their financial wellbeing and 8000 staff. I am absolutely keen."
Watson is well-liked within the bank and had the backing of ANZ New Zealand chairman Sir John Key when he announced Hisco's departure.
She is the first New Zealand woman to lead the bank. Australian Jenny Fagg had a short stint as the first female CEO of ANZ NZ but stepped down after being diagnosed with cancer.
But counting against her is that she was on the board of Arawata Assets, the ANZ subsidiary which sold Hisco's wife Deb Walsh the St Heliers property.
A Terranet Summary Report shows that the house was purchased by ANZ New Zealand Arawata in 2011 for $7.5 million.
Despite a booming property market over the next six years the property was on-sold to Hisco's wife Deborah Veronica Walsh in July 2017 for just $6.9 million.
As of July 1 2017 the property at 269 St Heliers Bay Rd had a Rating Valuation of $10.75 million, according to Terranet.
A Financial Markets Authority investigation found the house sale should have been disclosed in the bank's 2017 financial statements.
Last week an independent report carried out by Deloitte under a Section 95 request by the Reserve Bank found the ANZ had not breached any of its policies in the sale of the property.
It said the sale of the house to Hisco's wife was overseen by the previous ANZ NZ board chair and it was completed at arm's length and based on independent market valuations.
"The AAL [Arawata Assets Ltd] board approved the house sale based on the information and work undertaken by the previous chairman."
The Deloitte report also said subsequent house valuations did not invalidate the process undertaken at the time of the sale.
Who is Antonia Watson?
Watson joined ANZ New Zealand in 2009 as its financial controller before moving up to chief financial officer in December 2012. She became managing director of the retail and business banking arm in February 2017.
Before working at the ANZ she was with Morgan Stanley for 13 years wokring in Hungary as the general manager of its business services and technology centre and in Sydney as head of finance and Infrastructure as well as in a number of roles in London.
She has a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in accounting from the Univeristy of Otago and initially worked at KPMG in New Zealand in the audit team after graduating. It was there she obtained her chartered accountancy.
ANZ New Zealand chair Sir John Key said Watson was an outstanding applicant for the role.
"Antonia is a warm, empathetic and inclusive leader who is also methodical in her thinking and forensic in her analysis," Key said.
"Most importantly she is authentic – what you see is her and she'll be upfront and honest with you."
Key said like all banks ANZ NZ faced many immediate challenges – significantly increased capital, more regulation and regulatory oversight, higher customer and public expectations of financial institutions and increasing competition from new entrants to the industry.
"The board is confident Antonia has all the skills to help ANZ NZ navigate this new
environment and ensure the bank flourishes."
ANZ says Ben Kelleher will continue as acting managing director retail and business banking until a replacement is found.