Former Westpac senior executive Rob Whitfield has been appointed New South Wales Treasury secretary, foregoing a potentially huge paycheck in the private sector.
Whitfield, who earned $4.7 million last year, announced he was leaving Westpac Banking Corporation last month. He was appointed group executive of Westpac’s Institutional Bank in 2009 and is chairman of Westpac’s Asia Advisory Board.
The 50-year-old will replace outgoing secretary Phil Gaetjens, who announced in April he will stand down after four years in the role and return to Canberra for family reasons.
Moving into the public service role, Whitfield faces a 90% pay cut. The current NSW Remuneration Tribunal determination puts a Band 4 secretary salary between $422,501 and $488,100.
Whitfield has led several of Westpac’s largest and most complex transactions such as the acquisition and integration of St George Bank into Westpac Group.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said Whitfield will be tasked with guiding NSW through a significant era of growth and investment.
“Rob’s level of strategic thinking and knowledge of financial, capital and treasury issues is unsurpassed and it will be fantastic to have him leading the Treasury team,” said the premier.
“NSW is privileged that an individual of his calibre, experience and knowledge has decided to serve the government and people of this state.
“I believe his appointment should be a beacon to the best and brightest across corporate Australia — we want you to make a contribution to the community, and if you want to do so, NSW welcomes you,” Baird stated.
Baird also commended Phil Gaetjens for his outstanding service to NSW.
Whitfield started at Westpac as a graduate in 1986, joined Westpac Treasury in 1993 and was appointed group treasurer in 2000.
The move out of Westpac follows Whitfield missing out on succeeding Gail Kelly in the bank’s top job after she announced her retirement last year.
The NSW government’s decision to hire its Treasury head from the private sector echoes the selection of former UBS asset management group boss John Fraser as federal Treasury secretary in 2014.