BREAKING: Big bank gets new deputy amid succession rumours

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Westpac has appointed finance head Phil Coffey to the newly-created role of deputy chief executive officer, amid whispers of when an announcement can be expected on the future of CEO Gail Kelly.

Coffey has been the bank's CFO since 2005, with previous roles at the Reserve Bank and Citicorp.

The fact he was promoted by Kelly – who has worked at Westpac for nearly two decades and shows no sign of leaving soon – rather than the board of directors is an indicator she will be at the helm for at least a while longer, AFR predicts.

Instead, Coffey had “itchy feet” and told Kelly he needed a new challenge, AFR reports.

Coffey took a four-month sabbatical last year as part of his long service leave.

During his time away from the bank last year, his position was covered by Peter King, who was also promoted to chief financial officer of Westpac today.

The new position is said to have been created in response to the waves of change sweeping through banking, including changes in technology and regulation.

Westpac said today that Coffey would work directly with Kelly from next month on ''critical strategic issues,'' including the bank's contribution to the government's financial system inquiry.

Kelly is looking forward to working closely with Mr Coffey, saying he was highly respected and had played a ''critical'' role in building up the bank.

''His expertise in risk, finance, capital markets and regulatory issues will be invaluable in the further development of the group's strategy as we address both the challenges and opportunities facing the industry,'' Kelly said.

''Peter's promotion shows the depth of talent in the group and our ability to recognise and develop our future leaders.”

Some analysts have said the most likely successors to Kelly are the boss of its flagship Australian division Brian Hartzer or institutional boss Rob Whitfield.