While most might imagine David Morgan AO to have a conservative economic background, the truth is far more exotic. Prior to becoming the CEO of a global top-20 bank, he overcame the scars of his father’s bankruptcy, starred alongside Olivia Newton-John as a child actor, turned down a spot at Richmond Football Club, survived a stand-off with an African dictator, and served in the Treasury of the Hawke-Keating government as it liberalised Australia’s economy.
After a PhD at the London School of Economics, Morgan worked at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, uncovering eye-watering corruption on foreign postings, until Canberra pulled him home. As a colleague and confidant of Paul Keating, Morgan had a central role in an audacious period of financial deregulation, tax reform and budget consolidation.
In 1989 Morgan jumped the public-private fence to join Westpac, where he was immediately branded an ‘academic socialist’ outsider. Yet his boundless ambition, and his instinct to balance what is right for business and what is simply the right thing to do, saw him appointed CEO in 1999, a role he held until 2008.
Oliver Brown’s biography of one of Australia’s key financial figures includes rare interviews with former prime minister Paul Keating, Wall Street titans Jamie Dimon and James Gorman, Reserve Bank governors Bernie Fraser and Ian MacFarlane, Westpac CEOs Bob Joss and Gail Kelly, and secretaries of the Treasury Ken Henry, Ted Evans and Martin Parkinson.