Westpac has appointed John McFarlane as its new chairman, placing the veteran banker in charge of dealing with a giant money-laundering scandal.

Mr McFarlane - a former chief executive of the ANZ Bank and chairman of British bank Barclays – will now help Westpac confront over 23 million suspected breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Westpac has been on the ropes since it was revealed that its payment platforms were used by convicted paedophiles for transactions in the Philippines.

The charges brought by the financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC forced the resignation of Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer and saw current chairman Lindsay Maxsted bring forward his retirement.

Mr Maxsted said his successor's decades of experience will be invaluable.

“Over the past 27 years, he has been a main board director of five of the world's leading financial institutions, including as executive and non-executive chairman, chief executive and executive and non-executive director roles,” Mr Maxsted said.

“Most recently, Mr McFarlane was chairman at Barclays in London, which after the global financial crisis underwent a decade of challenge.

“During his four years as chairman, the company was streamlined, repositioned and has sustainably returned to profit.”

Mr McFarlane says he does not intend to take another banking leadership role, but says he is “excited by the challenge of returning Westpac to its place as a leading global bank, following recent events”.

“To some extent, the internal and external challenges ahead for Westpac are not dissimilar to those in my last five financial institutions.

“Nevertheless, I'm sufficiently battle-hardened to realise things can be tougher than you think and that in banking, nothing is ever certain.”