Bank inquiry: ANZ boss apologises to customers

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ANZ boss Shayne Elliot said the bank had failed some customers and apologised to them during a banking inquiry in Canberra on Wednesday.

The CEO of Australia’s third-largest bank defended the culture of his bank but said some employees had lost their jobs and others had “behaved appallingly” during a banking inquiry in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We have made mistakes, there’s no doubt about that,” ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot told a parliamentary inquiry.

“On occasion ... we’ve had customers charged fees incorrectly, we fixed that, we’ve had customers who have not always received quality advice, we’ve had a situation … where people have been charged a fee and not received any advice at all.”

During the grilling by politicians from each of the major parties, the bank revealed:

  • Forty financial planners referred to ASIC no longer work with the bank.
  • Breaches by financial planners have increased by over 700 per cent.
  • Credit card rates are being reconsidered.
  • It is trying to move more women into leadership positions.

In contrast to the Commonwealth Bank, which told the same committee on Tuesday that no employees had been sacked over dodgy practices, the ANZ CEO said dozens of employees had left.

“In terms of financial planners, we've reported 45 financial planners to ASIC recently, 40 of which no longer work with us,” Mr Elliot said.

“Some of them are line dealers as opposed to employees but, yes, they no longer work with us.”

Labor MP Pat Conroy said that was a massive increase since the last time the bank had fronted a parliamentary committee and reported only six breaches.

“So, we’ve got a 750 per cent increase in breach reporting in your financial management arm over a 12 month period?” he asked.

“Yes, that is mathematically correct,” Mr Elliot replied.

“We are raising the standards in which we operate and, as a result of that, when we find problems, we report them.”

Appetite for lowering credit card rates

The bank also revealed while it needed to stay competitive, it was considering lower credit card rates.

“We absolutely have an appetite to look at it,” Mr Elliot said.

“I think there's an opportunity for us, frankly, to take a bit of leadership on this and do something better on not just the interest rate but the fee structure in cards.”

The bank put the revenue from credit card rates into context, telling MPs it only makes a few hundred million dollars from credit cards out of its entire $7.5 billion annual profit.

ANZ facing a 'diversity challenge'

CEO Shayne Elliot refused assertions from some politicians that the culture of ANZ had become “blokey”.

“Frankly, I reject that,” he told Liberal MP Julia Banks but agreed not enough women were in the upper ranks of ANZ.

“People with serious responsibility across the organisation, about 40 per cent of those roles are held by women.”

During his three hour appearance, he was also frank when asked why Australians held such low opinions of banks.

"I think as an industry, we have lost touch with our customers,” he said.

“It's taken us down a path that's created bad behaviour, some poor culture and really not treated customers with the respect they deserve.”

He also indicated his support for an independent banking tribunal that disgruntled customers could go to.

Labor still calls for public inquiry

Labor politicians have grudgingly been taking part in the inquiry but continue to call for a full-scale royal commission into Australia’s banks.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the yearly inquiries he instigated were far more effective than a public inquiry.

“The virtue of the Economics Committee is it will be there every year for the next 100 years,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney.

“The royal commission on the other hand is a one-off inquiry, you have it, it's done, it reports and it's over.”

With the Commonwealth Bank and ANZ completing their hearings, NAB and Westpac will appear tomorrow.

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