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Such is the stature and scale of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) that you cannot even talk about banking in Australia without mentioning CBA.

Established in 1911, CBA has grown to become the largest bank in Australia, offering a diversified range of banking and financial services, including Retail Banking Services, Institutional Banking and Markets, Wealth Management, Business and Private Banking, and International Financial Services, among others.

Founded by the Government and later acquiring the responsibilities of a central bank to being privatized, listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, and expand internationally to Europe, Asia, and North America, CBA has seen and been through it all – quite literally.

Here’s how the Commonwealth Bank of Australia fared in 2021:

Let’s now take a detailed look at the intriguing journey of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, full of ups and downs, right from the time it was set up in the early 20th century to today – 110 years later.


From Humble Beginnings In 1911 To Becoming The Central Bank

In December 1911, Andrew Fisher’s Australian Labor Party (ALP) government, which favored nationalization, passed the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911, establishing the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. CBA was set up as a government-owned savings and general trading commercial bank – the first Australian bank to have a federal government guarantee.

File:StateLibQld 1 391129 Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Bundaberg, 1915.jpg
Source: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In July 1912, the first CBA branch was opened for business in Melbourne at 317 Collins Street with Sir Denison Miller in charge as the Governor. The bank also began trading through post offices, as evident from the agreement signed with Australian Post in 1912. The following year CBA merged with the State Savings Bank of Tasmania, incorporating Post Office Savings Bank of Tasmania. In the same year, branches in all six Australian states were set up, starting off with the first Sydney branch that was inaugurated in the presence of many spectators, including Prime Minister Andrew Fisher. 

Here Comes The World War I

Whilst still in the infancy stage, CBA faced a challenge unlike any other with the onset of World War I. 

The bank only had 228 employees when the World War began, and a major chunk of the staff enlisted in the army, posing a significant management challenge. That was not all. A substantial amount of money had to be raised quickly as it became crystal clear that the war had no end in sight and the financial costs would continue to mount. To top it all off, the economy was in shambles with disruption to international trade.

File:SLNSW 26091 Win the War Week last day.jpg
Source: Sam Hood , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Although tiny and still finding its feet by the time World War I struck, CBA rose to the occasion, supported the government, and helped Australia come out of the war stronger than ever. The bank made it a point to continue to expand, and with the male staff heading off to the frontlines, it hired women and school leavers not old enough to enlist, ensuring smooth and efficient operations while continuing to grow.

From 14 branches and around 2000 agencies through which the bank offered services at the outbreak of the war to 36 branches and 2770 agencies, the bank grew at a rapid pace despite the numerous challenges. In 1916, CBA moved its headquarters to Sydney and opened up a branch in New Guinea and agencies elsewhere to provide financial and banking services to servicemen abroad.

Being the government’s banker, CBA also ensured that more than 400,000 service people all across the world continued to get paid on time. Plus, it took on a leading role in arranging finances to fight the war. CBA raised £250 million through the launch of bonds between 1915 and 1921 on behalf of the Australian government at a time when no public-debt raising market existed and there was little to no know-how of sourcing that amount of money by introducing a new form of financing and marketing innovatively to draw an enthusiastic response from the Aussies. 

File:SLNSW 26083 Win the War Week Air Force Day Martin Place.jpg
Source: Sam Hood , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Last but not least, CBA played an essential role in transforming the Australian economy throughout the turbulent times of World War I. The bank organized a number of shipments on the government’s behalf, participated in the producer pools actively to provide financing to oil the wheels of trade, bought ships to streamline exports and imports, and even became the national agent to provide land and homes for service people in 1918.

Post World War I & The Great Depression

From 1920 onwards, CBA’s role in central banking began increasing gradually as it started acquiring central bank powers. The responsibility of issuance of Australian banknotes was transferred from the Department of Treasury to CBA. The new Australian Notes Board was set up and chaired by the Governor of CBA. Moreover, CBA merged with Queensland Government Savings Bank.

In 1924, a board of directors was created for CBA, and the bank was given complete responsibility for the issuance of Australia’s banknotes. In 1927, the Commonwealth Savings Bank was granted a separate legal status as part of the Commonwealth Bank.

In 1931, the bank’s management went head-to-head with the labor government of James Scullin. The chairman of CBA, Robert Gibson, refused to extend credit in response to the Great Depression as proposed by Treasurer Edward Theodore until and unless there was a cut in pensions.

This issue led to the fall of the government and demands from the labor party to reform the bank such that the government has greater control over monetary policy. In 1931, CBA acquired the government-owned Savings Bank of New South Wales and State Savings Bank of Western Australia. Plus, it also launched the School Banking program. 

World War II Erupts

With the outbreak of the second world war, CBA received almost all central bank powers in emergency legislation and continued to support the economy, government, and Australian troops serving abroad. From closely advising the government of economic policy to raising loans and funding the war, CBA once again rose to the occasion and delivered. 

In 1942, the Commonwealth Banking Corporation suspended its operation in Papua New Guinea as the Japanese army invaded the region. The new Commonwealth Bank Act and the Banking Act, both of 1945, further formalized the bank’s power in monetary policy, exchange control, and banking policy and regulation. CBA, making full use of its powers, helped the Australian economy expand at the end of the war. In 1945, a General Banking Division was set up, marking CBA’s entry into the business market. 

The Eventful 1950’s

Prior to the war, CBA also expanded quickly, and within a period of 5 years, the bank opened multiple branches throughout Australia and even one in the Solomon Islands in 1951. In 1953, Commonwealth Trading Bank was established and given a separate legal status, increasing the bank’s competitive presence. The commencement of the foreign division led to the bank’s international expansion in Asia.

The bank also established a Migrant Information Service in 1958 (later known as the Australian Financial & Migrant Information Service, or AFMIS) to support the government in its immigration programs.

In the late 1950s, there was a controversy regarding the bank’s dual roles as trading and savings bank on one end and central bank on the other. Hence, the government introduced the Reserve Bank Act 1959 to separate the central banking and commercial functions. Reserve Bank of Australia was set up to exercise the central bank function, and Commonwealth Banking Corporation was formed purely as a commercial bank with three sections, including the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia, and the newly established Commonwealth Development Bank.

Key Takeaway 1: CBA – The Ultimate Australian Bank Doing Whatever’s Needed

In just a span of fifty years, CBA became the dominant force in the Australian banking industry. From being established as a government-owned savings and trading bank to progressively acquiring greater powers to become the central bank and eventually consolidating to such an extent that it warranted a separate body, CBA continued to evolve. 

Right from 1911 to 1960, CBA played a pivotal role as it helped Australia successfully navigate World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, coming out stronger than ever before. The bank rose to the occasion whenever it mattered and went above and beyond to answer the call of duty. The exemplary leadership, ability to pounce on opportunities, commitment to the greater Australian good made CBA a force to be reckoned with. 

Diversification, Dominance & Deregulation During 1960-1990

StateLibQld 1 388853 Commomwealth Bank employees, Tully, ca. 1950

The 1960s ushered in a new era with a plethora of positive developments. The Commonwealth Bank celebrated its golden jubilee in 1962, and the bank continued to explore new opportunities to scale up. From promoting career opportunities for women and hiring part-time employees to introducing decimal currency, Christmas Club Accounts, personal loans, and variations on traditional savings, a number of steps were taken to enhance the customer offerings throughout the 1960s.

Expanding & Diversifying

In the 1970s, CBA diversified by expanding into the home insurance and travel industry, after which the bank formed its own finance company, Commonwealth Bank Finance Corporation Ltd (CBFC). In the late 1980s, CBA delved into the managed investment and life insurance arena by establishing wholly-owned subsidiaries: Commonwealth Life Limited and Commonwealth Management Services Limited.

Changing Face of Banking

Having actively supported the introduction of decimal currency, CBA realized the importance of moving from paper records onto a new computer-based system. It was not a hidden fact that mechanization was replacing the conventional hand-posting methods of the early twentieth century. In 1969, CBA introduced the ‘Black Light’ signature system that recorded ‘invisible’ signature and enabled customers to withdraw at branches other than their own seamlessly.

By this time, computers were redefining industries and changing the way people lived as well as conducted business. From internal processes of the bank to telling operations and routine operations, all were being reinvented. CBA completed its online computer network in 1985.

With the launch of Bankcard, the first credit card in Australia in 1974, CBA later began offering Keycard in 1981, Mastercard in 1984, and Visa in 1993. During the same period, CBA set up Automatic telling machines (ATMs) in 1981, EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) in 1984, and electronic home and office banking in 1985.

Operations Overseas

In addition to diversifying and embracing computerization, CBA also became more active in its overseas dealings. As Papua New Guinea approached independence in 1974, CBA handed over the operations to a new government-owned Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation (PNGBC). In 1981, the bank transferred its banking operations in the Solomon Islands to the National Bank of Solomon Islands, which operated as a joint venture between CBA and the local government. Throughout the 1980s, CBA expanded internationally by setting up representation centers in Tokyo, Singapore, and New York.

Deregulation Comes Sooner Rather Than Later

Times were changing with the deregulation of the banking industry in Australia, and CBA had to adapt. Foreign banks entered the market, and competition posed significant challenges. CBA restructured the internal organization of the bank, widened its products and services portfolio to cater to the needs and preferences of the customer base, enhanced the foreign exchange dealings and services for the bank’s customers operating businesses overseas. The deregulation led to the conversion of CBA from a government-owned entity to a public corporation.

In 1989, CBA acquired a 75 percent share in the New Zealand-based ASB Bank Ltd. – the remaining 25 percent was acquired in 2000. In 1991, CBA acquired the State Bank of Victoria (SBV), becoming Australia’s largest domestic bank, and further consolidated CBA’s position in the retail banking industry.

Key Takeaway 2: Explore Multiple Avenues Of Growth

Expanding into new industries and markets overseas, diversifying products and services portfolio, embracing computerization to enhance efficiency and stay ahead of the curve, and amalgamating with ASB Bank Ltd and State Bank of Victoria were some of the main steps taken by CBA to not only survive but thrive during the second half of the twentieth century.

All of these steps bode well for the bank as it continued to grow both in stature and size within Australia and outside as well. A set of consistent policies, the ability to adapt to changing times, and being resilient in the face of adversities helped CBA pave its journey to success.


From 1990 Onwards To The CBA of Today

The 1990s led to a complete transformation of CBA. 

Starting in 1991, the Australian Government began the privatization process of CBA, which was completed in 1996. The first share offer in 1991 was valued at $1.3 billion, the second in 1993 at $1.7 billion, and the final one in 1996 at $5 billion. 

Throughout this time period, CBA continued to explore new opportunities to grow. Realizing the pivotal role customer service plays, the bank opened its first customer service contact center in Brisbane in 1993 and followed that up by opening another contact center in Sydney the very next year. In 1994, the bank also sold its shares in the National Bank of Solomon Islands and acquired a 50% stake in PT Bank International Indonesia to benefit from the banking opportunities in Asia.

In 1995, three major events took place. Firstly, general insurance was set up under the umbrella of Commonwealth Connect Insurance Limited (CCIL). Secondly, Commonwealth Securities Limited, a.k.a CommSec, a stockbroking company, was established. Finally, with technology and the internet upending the world in the 1990s, CBA also embraced the growing power of the internet and launched its website Just a couple of years down the line, CBA launched NetBank and began offering around-the-clock internet transaction banking services, becoming the first Australian bank to do so. 


Onwards & Upwards In The 21st Century

With the turn of the century came another merger – this time with Colonial Limited, formerly Colonial Mutual. This paved the way for CBA to become the market leader in Australia for lending deposits and asset management. Plus, it also augmented the life insurance business segment of CBA. The bank also acquired the remaining 25% of ASB Bank, gaining complete ownership. In 2000, International Financial Services (IFS) was launched as well in order to unite the offshore operations of CBA.

In 2003, Commonwealth Bank Foundation was established to impart financial education to the young and minorities. In 2004, CBA launched Private Bank for wealthy investors in order to offer robust and consistent investment advisory services catering to their needs and preferences while helping them achieve their goals.

File:Commonwealth Bank Building, 240 Queen Street, Brisbane, 03.jpg
Source: Kgbo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

CBA acquired Bank Arta Niaga Kencana in 2007 and doubled the resources available to PT Bank Commonwealth, Indonesia, laying bare its plans to fuel growth through operations in Asia. The same year, Start Smart Program was launched to provide financial literacy classes to school students. It later grew to become the world’s largest face-to-face financial education program.

In 2008, CBA acquired Bankwest. The next year, Commonwealth Bank Indigenous Banking Team was established as part of the Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan – another first for banks in Australia. Plus, it bought Wizard Home Loans in collaboration with Aussie Home Loans. Then in 2010, CBA bought a 15% share in Vietnam International Bank and launched a branch in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

By this time, it was clear that CBA planned to actively expand internationally. CBA established a strategic cooperation agreement with Jinan City Commercial Bank and Bank of Hangzhou, two Chinese banks, in 2010. Moreover, CBA also set up offices in Shanghai, China, and Mumbai, India. Early next year, CBA announced a $100 million increase in community spending over the next decade, depicting its commitment to society.

With technology being ingrained in the social fabric of society, CBA experimented with it and harnessed its power to drive growth. In 2013, CBA launched the enhanced CommBank app and Tap & Pay mobile payment technology. In order to develop cutting-edge products and services to delight its customers, CBA also set up a state-of-the-art Innovation Lab in Sydney. It acted as an idea incubator and accelerator to explore new ideas and encourage creativity.

By 2016, CBA was well on truly on top. It became the Number 1 Australian company and also the Number 1 bank in the world on the Global 100 Index for its strong Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices.

Rethink, Review & Reform

In 2018, CBA underwent a restructuring in the quest to streamline the business. It sold the New Zealand Sovereign Life insurance business, Australian CommInsure Life, and global asset management business, Colonial First State Global Asset Management. Plus, CBA also demerged its wealth management and mortgage broking businesses.

In recent years as well, CBA has continued to restructure and re-organize. The bank divested 80% of its equity interest in the Indonesian life insurance business, PT Commonwealth Life (PTCL), sold CommInsure General Insurance and 55% interest in Colonial First State, and merged Aussie Home Loans with Lendi. Apart from this, CBA has increased its focus towards digitization, offering new attractive products to customers, and rebranding itself to bolster growth. All this while, CBA stayed true to its core values of care, courage, and compassion during testing times as the bank launched Home Loan Compassionate Care, the TV ad campaign “We Can Together” during the pandemic, Green Loan for home loan customers, and Australia’s First Sustainability Loan. CBA has also committed to leading Australia’s economic recovery and transition from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Key Takeaway 3: Don’t Be Afraid To Change

CBA underwent a complete transformation in the 1990s and was privatized. Rather than resisting change, CBA embraced it, and that in turn allowed the bank to thrive. Whilst doing what it had always done best – serving customers through an array of financial products and services – CBA explored new avenues of growth. By making a host of acquisitions – large and small – and forming strategic partnerships will players at home and abroad, CBA continued to expand. All this while, CBA invested in its communities and encouraged sustainability and innovation.

Lately, CBA has been trying to simplify its portfolio through restructuring as it believes a more focused portfolio will eliminate complexities and improve the performance of its core business. Hence, it has divested a number of its businesses, including insurance, wealth management, and mortgage broking businesses.

What’s Holding CBA Back? Lack Of Digitization!

The bank is beginning to focus more on the development of new digital products and services. Plus, it striving hard to provide the best financial services and ultimate digital experience to its 7.6 million digital customers.

CBA launched Klarna Australia app, the leading banking app for online shopping services, in 2020. It also partnered up with x15ventures partners to lead the next wave in new digital customer service, set up CommBank Neo, a no-interest payments card and launched Bill Sense – a feature that helps people with budgeting – in the same year. In 2021, CBA launched the buy now, pay later (BNPL) product StepPay and teamed up with Little Birdie to provide customers the best deals in real-time while shopping online.

But the pressing question remains: Is it all enough to counter the threat posed by neo banks and digital banks? In a world that’s rapidly changing and embracing digital technologies, can CBA survive, let alone thrive? 

Competition Increasing With New Entrants In The Market

It’s safe to say that CBA faces intense pressure from the new entrants in financial services such as neo banks and digital banks that are revolutionizing banking and delighting customers to the point that customers have no choice but to change whom they bank with. 

Plus, it doesn’t help that neo banks and digital banks have had a head start on CBA. One of the first neo banks in Australia, Volt Bank was founded in 2017, and the first digital bank Up was also founded in the same year. Clearly, CBA has been slow to digitize and harness the power of technology and digital infrastructure. 

Even the steps that it started taking in 2020 and 2021 are not enough to digitally transform itself and counter the threats posed by neo banks, digital banks, and fintechs, including Volt Bank, Up, 86 400 (founded in 2017), Hay (founded in 2018), Pelikin (founded in 2018), QPay (founded in 2018), Revolut (founded in 2015 and launched in Australia in 2019), Douugh (founded in 2016), and archa (founded in 2016) - all of which have had a head start over CBA.

The bigger banks have lately shown an interest in acquiring the neobanks, digital banks, and fintech startups in a bid to push the problem of internal digital transformation farther away. 

Rather than understanding the problem, acknowledging, addressing, and adapting to the changing financial climate, banks are somewhat taking the easy way out, by buying out neobanks and copying over the technology into their existing product. 

A few examples of this include National Australia Bank Limited (NAB) acquiring 86 400, to leverage its technology and innovation capabilities. Also, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank is all set to acquire fintech Feroicia - the move will give them full control over the digital bank, Up. 

Here are four key factors limiting CBA:

  •  Offering Safe & Secure Banking 

The banking industry is by far the most affected by cybercrimes and digital frauds. It is estimated that cybercrimes cost $6 trillion globally in 2021, and banks bore the brunt of it. Let this sink in for a moment. What’s even more alarming is that this number is expected to double by 2025. According to Accenture, there were on average 270 attacks (unauthorized access of data, applications, services, networks, or devices) per company in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 31%. Again, banks were the primary target.

Clearly, banks are lagging in terms of countering the sophisticated cyber-attacks and digital frauds of today. This is mainly because they haven’t invested in internal digital transformation and enhanced their capabilities. Threats and risks are continuing to emerge with the adoption of new technologies and digital solutions, posing an even greater challenge.

CBA, just like most other banks, hasn’t put effective systems in place to detect, monitor, and eliminate any and all cyber-security threats. This is why the bank has been under fire for various incidents, including data breaches of around 19 million accounts and a money-laundering scandal that tarnished the company’s reputation in 2018. CBA acknowledged these failures and even paid a record fine of $700 million. Subsequent to these back to back cases of gross incompetence, CBA vowed to improve operational risk management, compliance, cyber-security, Anti-money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) procedures to ensure the same doesnt happen again.

  • Being Bogged Down By Legacy Systems

Legacy banking systems are mainly the decades-old platforms that banks use to support their back-end infrastructure for core services such as making new accounts, processing transactions, taking deposits, and initializing loans, among other tasks. 

They are simply not capable enough to fulfill the needs of the consumers today and pose additional risks and liabilities to the bank. For instance, in the latter half of 2019, CBA’s core system went awol, leading to an 18-hour outage. Not only did it adversely impact the payment systems throughout the country laying bare the risks in an interconnected financial system but also close to 7 million consumers were inconvenienced.

The operation and maintenance of these legacy systems are also costly and time-consuming. The gap between the digital/neobanks and traditional banks is getting wider every day as banks are hampered with their legacy system. A task as simple as opening a bank account is much slower due to the bank’s legacy system and processes. While digital/neobanks can open accounts within a matter of seconds and that too, digitally, traditional banks can take days and require documentation on top of visits to the bank. 

CBA, just like other conventional banks, is stuck in the past and bogged down with its relatively outdated legacy systems that are incapable, inefficient, and inflexible when it comes to catering to the demands of today and preparing for the future. No wonder the Commbank payment systems and internet banking goes down every now and then, leaving customers stranded. In 2021, CBA’s payment systems went down 3 times in as little as one week

While neo banks and digital banks are offering user-friendly digital experiences and creative new packaged solutions to automate processes, all the while harnessing the power of the cloud, artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics.

  • Unable To Build A Culture Of Digitalization

Another key missing piece in the traditional banks is the digital culture, due to which they aren’t able to focus on internal digital transformation. The entire organization, right from the executives to the staff in the back-office and front-lines, is not aligned and focused on driving outstanding results by leveraging technology and digital tools to offer flexibility, convenience, ease of use, simplicity, and personalized products and services. 

This systemic change is typically prevented by the lacking knowledge, skillset, and vision of upper management. The top down leadership in traditional banks is a contributing factor to the success of digital banks. As traditional banks such as CBA never felt the need to be adaptable, now they are struggling to even be agile. 

There’s no doubt that digital is the new normal, and the customers of today prefer services that are digitally capable. As such, CBA needs to build a digital culture. From the CBA staff on the front lines to the senior management, all need to be on the same page if they want to successfully transform digitally. 

So far, it is evident that the organizational culture is resistant to change, and CBA hasn’t been able to break down the silos and identify the right governance structure. Moreover, CBA hasn’t pinned down what it wants to achieve, which is why the mindset, laser-sharp focus, and synergy between the bank’s team are lacking. Thus it doesn’t come as a surprise that CBA is losing the race against neo banks and digital banks.

  • Difficulty In Ramping Up Digital Solutions

CBA is late to the party. Neobanks, digital banks, and fintechs have had a headstart of on average 2-3 years, and their small sizes and better innovation capabilities give them an additional edge. Gartner predicts that by 2030, almost 80% of heritage financial firms will be forced to shut up shop, making way for digital players such as neo banks and digital banks to reign. 

This is supplemented by a Financial Times and Mambu report that highlights that 58% of the banks that fail to digitally transform will cease to exist in five to ten years from now and two-thirds of banks will lose market share within two years. CBA might just be one of them. That’s the cost of not digitalization - losing market share and being driven out of business just years from now! 

Financial technologies are here to stay, and they are the future. According to Mckinsey & Company, almost 40 percent of customers use a fintech platform for their day-to-day financial activities, and over 90 percent of them are satisfied with it. From their general banking and lending needs to wealth management and investment preferences, the different fintech platforms cater to all their requirements. Hence, fintech now commands the trust of customers and has become their go-to choice given the ease of use it offers. 

CBA has taken some steps to make fintech a greater part of its business and shift to digital-first channels, but given how things stand today, there’s an urgent need to do more. From complex data architecture to talent gaps, there are an array of reasons why CBA hasn’t truly harnessed the power of technology and transformed digitally.

The best way to remain relevant is to provide well-integrated digital solutions that customers appreciate and enjoy. From point-of-sale financing and buy now, pay later solutions to advanced analytics and personalized lending and payment services, CBA is lagging in providing quality digital offerings that are quick and convenient to use. Hence, existing customers have to look elsewhere to fulfill their needs.

Digital-First Business Strategy The Need Of The Hour

It’s time CBA disrupts the disruptors. After all, it has the capital, resources, expertise, and experience to turn the tables on the new entrants. This is a crucial make-or-break moment for CBA. If CBA manages to become the ultimate digital bank, adopting a new digital business model on the back of new customer interfaces, streamlined customer journeys, attractive digital offerings, and by innovating middle and back offices, CBA can make waves in the financial industry and grow exponentially. However, the time clock is ticking, and CBA has a lot to catch up on. 

Will CBA be able to recognize the need to adapt to compete against neo banks and digital banks? Only time will tell.

Key Takeaway 4: Internal Digital Transformation Is Essential

CBA finds itself in a peculiar situation. With the rapid advancements in technology and digital becoming mainstream, CBA has its work cut out if it wants to compete and succeed against the neo banks and digital banks. That being said, CBA needs to up the ante and embrace digital transformation.

The main issues bogging CBA down are its legacy banking system, failure in building a digital culture, difficulty in offering digital solutions, and countering sophisticated cyber threats to provide safe and secure banking.

Time is of the essence and CBA must act now to build as well as implement a digital-first business strategy and focus on internal digital transformation.

Growth By Numbers & Key Strategic Takeaways

CBA’s journey has been remarkable, to say the least. Throughout the 110 years in business, CBA has continued to grow even during extremely challenging times. From being formed by the Government, acting as the Central Bank, tackling the tricky deregulation period, being privatized and becoming the leading bank in Australia and a force to be reckoned with in Asia, European Union, UK, New Zealand, and North America, CBA has literally seen and been through it all. Its journey of continuous growth is a testament to its strong fundamentals, clear vision, and ability to do business the right way. What’s more, is that CBA is at a crossroads right now and it is this crucial make or break period where its decisions are of utmost importance as they will define its future.

Growth By Numbers




Operating Net Income

$24.2 billion

$16.1 billion


$8.8 billion

$5.6 billion

Share Price






Key Takeaways


There’s No Substitute For Great Leadership

Great leaders are invaluable. They formulate and implement new strategies, devise and communicate mission and values, boost the morale of all stakeholders, motivate employees to go the extra mile, and lead from the front, especially when push comes to the shove. CBA has been blessed with amazing leaders. From Sir Denison Miller at the very beginning to the Governors, CEOs, Managing Directors, Chairman of the Board, and executive leadership that came in later and continue to run the bank, all have been integral to the success of CBA as an institution that has earned the trust of the public.

Do Business & Do Good – Together

CBA is the people’s bank. Right from the time it was privatized in the 1990s, CBA has gone above and beyond to do right by the people and the planet. From enhancing its customer service and providing financial education to investing in local communities and promoting sustainability, the bank has continued to set the bar higher in terms of doing business and doing good. By focusing on sustainable practices, policies, and decisions, CBA has continued to create long-term value for all its stakeholders. This is what sets it apart from its competitors and helps it win the trust of its customers.

Use Mergers To Grow

CBA has been involved in an array of mergers. Beginning with the merger of the State Savings Bank of Tasmania in 1913, just one year after it commenced operations, CBA laid bare its key tactic that it continued to use throughout the next century – grow through mergers. For businesses, it is not enough to diversify the products and services line-up and expand domestically as well as internationally. Multiple avenues of growth need to be explored in order to achieve a competitive advantage and scale up. This is where mergers come in. From increasing market share and reducing the cost of operations by achieving economies of scale to diversifying and expanding quickly, mergers offer a number of benefits. No wonder CBA leveraged them to grow.

Never Lay Still

The world of business is continuously evolving. Hence, the worst and most risky thing a business can do is do nothing. One secret behind CBA’s success is that it has always been bold, taken risks, innovated, and tried new things to learn what works and what doesn’t. As a result of CBA’s proactiveness and habit of taking decisive action, it has managed to set the bar higher continuously, delighted its customers time and again, and fuelled its growth. Right from the World War 1 when CBA had to manage the economic crisis, to the Covid-19 pandemic when CBA rose to the occasion as it has always done, there are countless examples of CBA delivering when it mattered the most. This ability is a result of CBA’s flexibility, resilience, and ability to embrace change.


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