CBA profit slips to AU$8.6b as it continues to simplify its structure

The bank continues to focus on divestment opportunities and investments in new technologies to lift customer experience.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

As the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) continues to simplify its business through divestment and investment opportunities, the bank reported statutory net profit after tax for the 2019 financial year was AU$8.6 billion, slipping 8.1% from AU$9.3 billion that was recorded for the same period last year.

"While the current context is challenging we have a strong franchise and our underlying business continues to perform well," CBA CEO Matt Comyn said. 

"We are focused on execution excellence in our business and extending our leadership in digital, and the Board and management team are committed to continued investment in our core business."

For the 12 months to 30 June 2019, the bank's operating income decreased marginally by 2% to AU$24 billion.

Meanwhile operating expenses increased slightly by 2.5% to $11 billion. Of that amount, AU$1.9 billion was spent on information technology services, 8% more than FY18, primarily due to increased IT infrastructure costs, risk and compliance spend, and software license costs.

Investment spend incurred in the full year was AU$1.4 billion, a 9% increase on the $723 million from the prior year. 

According to the bank, 64% of this year's investment spend was made up of risk and compliance projects that helped the bank address compliance with new regulations including open banking, as well as the banking code of practice and the comprehensive credit report regime -- both of which were introduced following Australia's Royal Banking Commission. 

"We've already completed six of the recommendations [from the Royal Commission] and we're going to make sure we complete at least another eight before the end of the calendar year, taking the total to 14 of the 23 that we can implement by ourselves," Comyn said.

CBA also continued to pump money into identifying, detecting, and protecting customers against cybersecurity risks, and improving its IT infrastructure, through investment in the New Payments Platform and modernisation of data centres; and upgrading ATMs and other cash handling devices to process the new RBA banknotes.

This builds on the bank's recent commitment to invest just over AU$5 billion over the next five years towards "building a better bank", with a majority of that fund to go towards technology. Evidence of this already happening was shown off last week when the bank launched version 4.0 of its banking app that boasts features such as location-based security and tax return notifications. 

During the year, the bank built a Customer Engagement Engine that it has touted as being able to power customer experience through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

In addition, the bank announced on Wednesday alongside its financial results that it made an initial $100 million contribution towards global payments provider Klarna's $460 million capital raising round, with plans to further invest at the parent and local level to support its partnership. 

The investment into Klarna grants CBA exclusive partnership rights to the company's technology in Australia and New Zealand. 

Comyn added the bank made "very good progress" on simplifying its structure, outlining how CBA completed the sale Sovereign, TymeDigital, Count Financial, and Colonial First State Global Asset Management during FY19, and that it will also exit the aligned advice area.  

"The progress we are making on divestments further strengthens our capital position," he said. 

"This supports continued investment in our business, and subject to prevailing operating conditions, creates flexibility for the Board in its ongoing review of efficient capital management initiatives and the delivery of long-term sustainable returns."

Further divestments are also in the pipeline, according to the bank, which are still subject to regulatory approval and conditions. 

The bank also revealed it will pay AU$3.4 billion in taxes for FY19, representing 29% of its AU$12 billion cash profit before tax. 

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