Economic headwinds unlikely to abate: CBA

by Adam Smith09 Nov 2011

Next year is unlikely to see a return of credit demand, Commonwealth Bank has indicated.

In an address to shareholders at the bank’s annual general meeting, CBA chairman David Turner said the global headwinds which had seen credit growth weaken in 2011 were unlikely to be abated in 2012. Turner predicted that much of the sluggishness that has characterised the past year will continue into the next.

“While the 2011 financial year has been characterised by subdued system credit growth and intense competition, there is nothing to suggest that the 2012 financial year will be much different. Fundamentally, it comes down to confidence, and it is confidence that will encourage both individuals and corporations to invest for growth,” Turner said.

The Eurozone debt crisis and slow recovery in the United States continued to impact Australia, Turner indicated, adding that Australian banks were “not immune to the vagaries elsewhere in the world”. He predicted that wholesale markets could again see funding pressures mount for Australian banks.

“Ongoing offshore instability continues to impact the domestic economy, and this has the potential to place further upward pressure on wholesale funding costs for domestic banks,” he said.

Commonwealth Bank posted record profits during the year, despite the conditions Turner outlined. The bank saw its cash net profit after tax rise 12% to more than $6.8bn. Turner touted a productivity and efficiency drive as key to replicating the results in a shaky economic environment.

“Against this backdrop, we will continue to operate in a disciplined and prudent manner. We will maintain a focus on driving productivity initiatives, and these will deliver sustainable improvements in business performance to provide superior returns to shareholders,” Turner said.

Outgoing CBA chief executive Ralph Norris also highlighted global economic challenges, and said the bank would have to improve customer satisfaction and the number of products per customer.

“In an environment of constrained credit growth and tighter margins, improving the service we provide to our customers and earning more business from them will be one of the key drivers of future growth,” Norris said.

Norris commented that during his tenure as CEO, the bank’s number of products per customer had grown by 20%, and was highest among the majors.

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