Although I have been in the recruitment industry for just over thirty years there’s always another surprise around the corner.
This week Seek Limited announced the appointment of disgraced former Commonwealth Bank (CBA) CEO, Ian Narev, to the dual role of Chief Operating Offer and Asia Pacific & Americas (AP & A) CEO.
The timing was curious given that incumbent AP & A CEO Michael Ilczynski’s extended leave was announced six weeks ago. Narev has been without a permanent job since he left the CBA in early 2018.
Narev’s position at the CBA became untenable as the fallout from the 4 Corners/Fairfax investigation in May 2014 intensified. The subsequent Banking Royal Commission laid bare the profit-at-all-costs culture at the CBA; a culture that led to breaches of anti-money laundering laws on almost 54,000 occasions, charging fees to dead customers, charging customers for insurance they could never claim and using outdated definitions to deny life insurance to people who had almost died from heart attacks and other catastrophic health problems.
Narev joined the CBA in 2007 and was appointed CEO four years later and although many of the bank’s ethical practises predated his tenure the Banking Royal Commission heard a deeply unflattering account of Narev’s ethical compass from his former subordinate, (and now CBA CEO) Matt Comyn.
According to Matt “new broom” Comyn, when he lobbied the boss to stop selling the useless insurance back in 2015 and 2016 he was told to “temper your sense of justice”.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are ripping off your customers, as long as you continue to get away with it.
Of course none of this was mentioned when Seek chief executive and co-founder, Andrew Bassat announced Narev’s appointment earlier in the week, instead saying;
“I am delighted that Ian will be joining SEEK and that we will benefit from his track record of being a proven, successful CEO of a complex organisation, with deep strategic thinking ability and an excellent understanding of the disruptive impact of technology.
I am excited to be working with Ian and I am confident that his extensive experience, strong personal values and business acumen will complement those of the current executive leadership team.”
Bassat tactlessly decided to throw ‘strong personal values’ into his statement about Narev. Either Bassat hadn’t read the ugly details of the royal commission hearings or he had read them and chose to thumb his nose at the significance of them.
Whichever it was Bassat showed exactly why so many in the recruitment industry regard the company he heads as arrogant and out of touch.
Narev has accepted a not-the-top-executive job at a $6.3 billion market capitalisation company having most recently held one of the highest profile executive jobs in Australia at a company twenty times larger than Seek (by market capitalisation).
As respected business commentator Elizabeth Knight succinctly wrote in her Sydney Morning Herald column yesterday:
“Who is in the market for a used or, in car yard sales-speak, a “pre-loved” bank executive? Companies that are prepared to look past the sticky mud stains of the royal commission and pick up a very high level and experienced manager for a second-hand price – that’s who.”
Seek haven’t announced what Narev will be earning but you can be sure it’s a tiny percentage of the $12.3 million he took home from the CBA in the 2016 financial year.
I don’t have a problem with Ian Narev being given a second chance. He made a series of poor choices relatively early into his term as Commonwealth Bank CEO. I would hope he very much regrets these choices and has learnt from them.
What I do have a problem with is the way Andrew Bassat has unnecessarily and provocatively thrown Narev’s “strong personal values” into his announcement. In doing so it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Bassat doesn’t regard ethical behaviour as a core personal value in Seek’s second-most senior executive.
Everything Bassat said about Narev’s experience and skill set is demonstrably accurate. What he said about Narev’s personal values is, at best, questionable and at worst, not true (if you regard ethical behaviour as important in an executive you employ).
Given Seek’s many public relations disasters over the past 24 months I would have thought Bassat would have given more consideration to his public utterances about an important new hire with an embarrassing recent blip in his resume; apparently not.