Will David Murray’s exit result in ‘meaningful change’?

The man brought in to be a safe pair of hands after the “clearly disastrous reign of Catherine Brenner and four other women at AMP”, has resigned – just two years into the job.
David Murray AO resigned as Chair of AMP today, reportedly after investors demanded accountability over the handling of the sexual harassment case involving Boe Pahari – who has also stood down as AMP Capital chief executive. Pahari’s recent appointment had been questioned after it was revealed he had been fined $500,000 for sexually harassing a female subordinate in 2017. Either he should continue to be penalised or has ‘done his time and reformed’ seem to be the two camps of thought on Pahari.

However, back to Murray and the upset investors. We wonder if these are the same faceless group who, back in May 2018, clamoured for the heads of three women from AMP when it was revealed via a statement to the ASX that the shareholders were pushing for ‘meaningful change.” They included then Chair, Catherine Brenner, and directors Holly Kramer and Vanessa Wallace. Patty Akopkiantz (then AMPs’ longest serving board member) left at the end of the year, leaving the wealth giant with just one woman on the board of eight.

This was clearly a much better outcome according to several media commentators and business luminaries such as Gerry Harvey. Bring in a sensible chap like David to steady the ship after the fiasco of the banking Royal Commission and get the company back on track.

I wonder if these same commentators will now be looking at the ‘social experiment of a less gender diverse board’ and wondering if this too, has been a failure?

Or will they realise that the financial misconduct revealed to be prevalent across almost our entire banking system was an outcome of many other factors – including a poor corporate culture that pursed and rewarded profit to the exclusion of almost all else – and that it was inevitable that NEDs and CEOs were going to take the heat.

As a side note, the senior positions in the financial services sector have and continue to be largely dominated by men.  A quick look at the latest data set from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows that at AMP, approximately two thirds of all senior / key manager positions are held by men.

It is also worth noting that ASIC informed Catherine Brenner earlier this month that it was finished investigating her conduct and will not take any action against her – effectively clearing the way for her to resume her corporate career.

David Murray will be succeeded by Debra Hazelton, who has been catapulted into surely one of corporate Australia’s most challenging roles. We wish her well and trust her very impressive credentials and experience in the Australian and international banking scene will finally result in the ‘meaningful change’ that shareholders and investors are clearly seeking.

More about Debra Hazelton

Debra has served as a Non-Executive Director on AMP since mid-last year, and is also on the boards of AMP Bank; AMP Capital Holdings, PERSOL Australia Holdings, Treasury Corporation of Victoria (TCV) and the Australia-Japan Foundation.  She has more than 30 years’ experience in global banking and financial services, with particular focus on Australia and Japan; is an Advisor to Japan Women's Innovation Network,  a member of the Australian Chamber Orchestra Japan Advisory Committee and a Principal of Kokusai Business Advisory. Her last executive role was at Mizuho Financial Group where she led Corporate Culture Globalization and Human Resources across 39 countries. Previously she held the national CEO positions for both Mizuho Bank in Australia and for Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) in Japan.

Debra has graduate and post-graduate degrees in Economics and Finance, as well as Philosophy and Japanese Language & Literature from universities in both Australia and Japan.
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