Established in Sydney in 1817, the Bank of New South Wales (BNSW) was the first bank in Australia. Edward Smith Hall was its first cashier and secretary. During the 19th and early 20th century, BNSW opened branches first throughout Australia and Oceania: at Moreton Bay (Brisbane) in 1850; in Victoria in 1851; in New Zealand in 1861; in South Australia in 1877; in Western Australia in 1883; in Fiji in 1901; in Papua New Guinea in 1910; and in Tasmania in 1910.
1975: BNSW incorporates its local business in Papua New Guinea as Bank of New South Wales (PNG).
1977: BNSW forms the Pacific Commercial Bank in Samoa as a joint venture with Bank of Hawaii, buying into Pacific Savings and Loan Company, in which Bank of Hawaii had had an ownership interest since 1971.
Westpac is formed
1982: BNSW merged with the Commercial Bank of Australia and changed their name to Westpac Banking Corporation, with the mission to become a significant Western Pacific bank from which Westpac is derived. The brandname incorporated the "W" which had been the logo of the Bank of New South Wales (popularly known as "the Wales").
1984: The original agreement between BNSW and the government in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands expired and WBC and the government of Kiribati formed Bank of Kiribati as a 51-49% joint venture. Bank of Kiribati also fulfilled the functions of a reserve or central bank.
1992: WBC recorded a 1.6 billion dollar loss, which at the time, was the largest loss for an Australian corporation. In the process the firm came close to insolvency, and slipped from being Australia's largest to third largest bank.
1995: WBC acquired Challenge Bank in Western Australia.
1996: WBC Holdings NZ bought Trust Bank, a chain of regional banks owned by Community Trusts, for NZD1.2 billion to form NZ largest bank, WestpacTrust. The bank had promised to keep the funding to Community Trusts flowing and to keep "Trust" in its name. However, Community Trust funding slowed to a trickle, and in 2002 the bank launched a rebranding which included dropping the "Trust" from its name. The merger of WBC and Trustbank also saw the closure of many branches around New Zealand. In towns and cities where both WBC and Trustbank existed, the bank merged redundant branches into a single branch; also it closed many branches in rural areas and outer suburbs.
1996: WBC sold Challenge Bank to the Bank of Melbourne.
1997: it acquired Bank of Melbourne in Victoria, paying an estimated price in excess of A$1.4 billion. WBC retained the rights to the Bank of Melbourne name and logos, but in 2004 rebadged the branches as Westpac. In 2011, Westpac relaunched the brand.
2001: The government of Kiribati sought to reduce Westpac's share in Bank of Kiribati from 51 to 49%, leading WBC to sell its shares back to the government. Bank of Hawaii sold its interest in Pacific Commercial Bank (42.7%) to Westpac, which held an equal portion. WBC offered Samoan investors, who held the remaining shares, the same price it had paid Bank of Hawaii. WBC now owns 93.5% of Westpac Bank Samoa and Samoan companies and individuals own 6.5%. In Tonga, Bank of Hawaii sold its shares in Bank of Tonga to Westpac, giving WBC 60% ownership of what is now Westpac Bank of Tonga.
2011: During July, St George branches in the state of Victoria were rebadged as Bank of Melbourne branches.
In early February 2012, Westpac announced plans to axe more than 400 domestic jobs and another 150 offshore jobs. This action was a response to much slower growth over the past several years and the desire to rationalise following Westpac's 2008 merger with St. George Bank.
2020: In April, Peter King was appointed CEO of Westpac, replacing Brian Hartzer.
Core business activities
The structure involves five key divisions including: Consumer Bank, Commercial and Business Bank, BT Financial Group, Westpac Institutional Bank and Westpac New Zealand. These five divisions serve more than 13 million customers.
Consumer Bank is responsible for sales and service of its 9 million consumer customers in Australia, assisting them with their everyday banking needs. The division covers all consumer banking products and services under the Westpac, St George, BankSA, Bank of Melbourne and RAMS brands.
Activities are conducted through the Consumer Bank's nationwide network of 1,429 branches, third-party distributors, call centres, 3,850 ATMs, EFTPOS terminals and internet banking services.
The Business Bank is responsible for sales and service of its small-to-medium enterprise, commercial and agribusiness customers in Australia, as well as asset and equipment finance and operates under the Westpac, St George Bank, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne brands.
Business and corporate customers (businesses with facilities typically up to $150 million) are provided with a wide range of banking and financial products and services, including specialist advice for cash flow finance, trade finance, automotive and equipment finance, property finance, transaction banking and treasury services. Sales and service activities for business and corporate customers are conducted by relationship managers via business banking centres, internet and customer service centre channels.
BT is the wealth management brand of the Westpac Group.
Funds Management operations include the manufacture and distribution of investment, superannuation products and investment platforms including Panorama, BT Wrap and Asgard. Insurance solutions[buzzword] cover the manufacturing and distribution of life, general and lenders mortgage insurance.
Westpac Institutional Bank
Westpac Institutional Bank (WIB) delivers a broad range of financial services to commercial, corporate, institutional and government customers.
WIB operates through dedicated industry relationship and specialist product teams, with expert knowledge in transactional banking, financial and debt capital markets, specialised capital, margin lending, broking and alternative investment solutions.[buzzword]
Customers are supported through operations in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and Asian centres.
In 1861 the Bank of New South Wales opened seven branches in New Zealand. Currently, Westpac NZ offers a full-service with around 1.5 million customers, 3,000 shareholders and 197 branches nationwide. It is the dominant provider of banking services to small to medium business, corporate and institutional organisations, and is the banker of the New Zealand government. It currently is the second largest bank in New Zealand, after the merger of ANZ and National Bank of New Zealand.
On 29 September 2006 the New Zealand Commerce Commission fined Westpac NZ$5.1 million for hidden foreign transaction fees, with most of the fine being reimbursement to affected customers, in the order of 12% of the fees actually charged. All other banks operating in New Zealand had either already been fined or were awaiting a court case.
On 22 July 2014, the firm announced that it would pilot a host card emulation (HCE) mobile payments technology to customers. It was the first bank in New Zealand to actively bring HCE mobile payments to market and one of only a handful of banks globally to be using the innovative 'digital wallet' technology. The three-month trial, using Carta Worldwide HCE technology, enabled customers to securely store and access credit and debit card information in a remote and hosted 'cloud' environment, enabling customers to use their Android smartphones as digital wallets. Soon after, in August 2014, Westpac NZ announced that it would be releasing the world's first augmented bank app, which adds layers of functionality to the digital wallet by enabling users to check account balances, view previous spending behaviours, pay bills and locate their nearest Westpac NZ branch or ATM. The app is also viewable in a 3D format by supported devices.
This unit of both the Australian and New Zealand Bank offers banking facilities to those migrating to either New Zealand or Australia. Bank accounts for migrants can be opened before people arrive in the country, and credit cards and mortgages can be approved before arrival. Westpac Migrant Banking has a representative office in London where accounts can be arranged, although the process can be done remotely from any country. Westpac planned to open a retail branch in London in 2011.
Westpac operates in seven south Pacific nations; the unit is headquartered in Sydney. The financial services offered include electronic banking (via online banking, ATMs and EFTPOS), deposit, loan, transaction accounts and international trade facilities to personal and business customers. Westpac Fiji is Westpac's Fijian operation. It is one of the largest banks in the country and has a 40% market share.
Westpac has committed $150m to the venture capital group Reinventure with the objective to increase the impact of technology in financial markets. The Westpac-backed firm has invested in start-ups like BrickX, OpenAgent and CodeLingo. Reinventure is mandated to invest independently of Westpac, unlike venture capital strategies led by other Australian banks.
In 2009, a Westpac-owned entity secured US$1.09 billion from the US Federal Reserve. Commentary suggests this was an unusual move for the bank, given its relatively minor position in North America. The borrowings by Westpac occurred at the height of the global financial crisis and was part of a Federal Reserve move to stabilise financial markets globally. The public and government attention of the borrowings followed the release of the information by the Federal Reserve in 2011, not Westpac.
Funding of coal mining in New Zealand
Westpac has come under criticism from climate-change organisations in New Zealand for its role in funding mining company Bathurst, which has gained resource consent to mine coal on the Denniston Plateau on the West Coast of the South Island. Opponents have claimed that the mine will release up to 218 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which will worsen the effects of anthropogenic climate change, as well as significantly damage an important ecosystem.
Westpac have largely ignored these claims, despite over one hundred customers leaving the company because of this issue.
Money Laundering and Child Exploitation Scandal
In November 2019, it was revealed that Westpac was guilty of violating anti-money laundering, child exploitation and counter-terror finance laws. CEO Brian Hartzer resigned in the wake of these. According to the Australian regulators, Westpac had 23 million anti-money laundering law violations. Which is the Australia's biggest ever anti-money laundering scandal to date.
In 2002 Westpac released a social impact report that outlined the bank's plan to meet international standards in the area of corporate social responsibility. This led to Westpac's assessment as the global sustainability leader for the banking sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index from 2004 to 2007.
Westpac has been criticised for backing logging operations on the Solomon Islands that destroy virgin rainforests. Because of this, the Australian Greens have called for the Banksia Awards to be withdrawn from Westpac.