Of all the business attributes that Catherine Livingstone has brought to bear during her six year spell on the CBA Board, including five and a half as chair, it is arguably those of taking a strategic view and an attention to detail that have had the biggest impact on the company.

According to incoming Chair, Paul O’Malley, this broader and considered approach has been a hallmark of her leadership in tackling the significant challenges the Group has faced, while creating and taking advantage of opportunities.

Speaking on the day of the announcement of Ms Livingstone’s impending retirement as chair and from the Board, Mr O’Malley said: “Under Catherine’s leadership, a particular focus of the Board has been the engagement with management in the development and evolution of the bank’s strategy.”

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“Catherine is also the first to acknowledge the contribution of her Board colleagues and the CEO, his management team, and the thousands of staff that turn up to work each day to help customers.”

This approach culminated in the unveiling of the Group’s refreshed strategy in 2021, which focuses on:

  • leading the transition to a sustainable and digital economy in tandem with Australia’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • providing global-best digital experiences and technology to our customers;
  • re-imaging the group’s products and services; and
  • delivering simpler, better foundations based on CBA’s core banking business.

Ms Livingstone’s time as chair has seen substantial change at the company arising out of a number of challenges prior to and after 2017.  These have included:

  • the appointment of Matt Comyn as Chief Executive Officer in 2018;
  • the Remedial Action Plan implementing recommendations by APRA to overhaul the bank’s governance, risk management and accountability frameworks;
  • the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission;
  • a major overhaul of the bank’s culture and values including setting new expectations of behaviour and responsibilities;
  • Board renewal involving the appointment of seven new independent Non-Executive Directors;
  • the divestment of all the Group’s non-core business operations including wealth management and insurance that is now largely complete;
  • a multi-billion dollar technology and people investment program focused on digital banking and the engineering and data science that sits behind it.

With the Board’s new strategy in place and much of the above work done or well underway, Ms Livingstone believes that after six years on the board this is the right time to hand over to a new Chair who will take CBA to the next level of its purpose.

Her service at CBA has mirrored that of significant change and development at other companies she has led, either as an Executive or as a Chair and Non-Executive Board Director, during a, so far, 45-year business career.

Having joined the accountancy firm of Price Waterhouse in 1977 after graduating with an honours degree in accounting, Ms Livingstone served as the CEO of Cochlear, the innovative manufacturer of hearing implant devices, for almost seven years from 1994.

Cochlear developed a strong focus on innovation, research and development and investment in the future under her leadership, which also saw the company floated on the ASX.

She was then appointed in 2001 as Chair of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the federal government agency responsible for scientific, technology and engineering research, a role she held for five years.

Awarded the Order of Australia in 2008 for service to the development of Australian science, technology and innovation policies, the business sector and a contributor to professional organisations, Ms Livingstone was appointed by the federal government as a member of the panel that conducted a review of Australia's national innovation system.

During that period she also served as a Board Director on a number of important Australian companies including Goodman Fielder, Macquarie Group, Worley Parsons and Telstra, where she was the Chair from 2009 to 2016

Her other significant appointments have been; as President of the Business Council of Australia from 2014-16, election as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2014 and as Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2016.

After stepping down from the CBA board in August this year, Ms Livingstone intends to focus on her ongoing role at UTS, her directorships of The Australian Ballet, Saluda Medical Pty Ltd and the Bundanon Trust Board, and as a member of the Steering Committee for the CSIRO Australia Telescope National Facility.