CBA, Westpac CEOs grilled

by Rebecca Pike12 Oct 2018

Two of the four major banks have faced parliamentary scrutiny as part of a review into the big four lenders.

Questions off the back of the Royal Commission were at the forefront for the CEOs of both Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Westpac.

Both CBA’s Matt Comyn and Westpac’s Brian Hartzer were in front of a committee, which will see two more sessions for the other two major banks.

They were both quizzed extensively on their processes for identifying and investigating misconduct and what they were doing about the misconduct that has been made public in recent months.

Comyn was jeered by members of the public when, after he was asked how many customers he’d met with face to face, he said less than ten. Jeering and laughing from the gallery erupted on several occasions throughout his questioning.

There was no jeering when Hartzer responded to the same question saying he had met with no customers face to face, but had been watching customer testimonial videos to keep up with the situations.

The Westpac boss was questioned over competition in the industry, with a ‘lack of switching’ from customers.

Jason Falinski, member for Mackellar, asked about mortgages under Westpac’s five different brands, such as St George or Bank of Melbourne, questioning what the differences were.

Hartzer responded to say the functionality would not be different, but the service proposition of the people a borrower deals with and the simplicity would be.

Falinski shot back asking “Can’t you see this blizzard of brands and products adds to the confusion in the market, is adding to the fear that makes consumers less likely to want to switch?”

There was no talk of how brokers could help with this “blizzard”, instead Hartzer agreed there was too much complexity and said there was an internal program to reduce the number of products and features.

Some members on the committee had met with victims of misconduct in their local areas and raised specific details and questions.

In one instance, Clare O’Neil, member for Hotham, raised the case of a single mother from Victoria. She had been a victim of fraud and was forced to move her and her two primary school children out of their home.

Speaking passionately to Comyn, O’Neil said, “Today she lives in a rooming house and has been in conflict now with your organisation for 12 years.

“Twelve years of her life have been devoted to getting her house back and she didn’t do anything wrong and the bank have put her through hell.”

Comyn said he would meet with the victim to discuss the situation.

Other areas of questioning surrounded remuneration structures for frontline staff, tightening of lending and individual products, such as invoice lending.

The next session takes place today (Friday, 12 September) and will see ANZ CEO Shayne Elliot face the committee. The final session will not be until next Friday, (19 September), for NAB’s CEO Andrew Thorburn.

COMMENTS

  • by Craig 12/10/2018 9:25:55 AM

    What an utter disgrace that the chairman allowed those present to boo and hiss, they talk about professionalism, well this is a prime example as to how this will all end up. I don't defend banks however, there are millions of good experiences that happen yearly, like the opportunity for a young couple or family to purchase their first homes, a person that get their shot at starting a business. Surely a Royal Commission are taking into account the good that comes out of the Banking system too, not just a few hundred 'bad' experiences.

  • by Quaggie 12/10/2018 10:41:20 AM

    Unfortunately there will always be the professional protestors at any of these gatherings who see it their job to disrupt proceedings. There is no excuse for their behaviour and calls for swift action by the chairman to eject these people from the public gallery before the message gets through that their poor behaviour will not be tolerated.

    As for the CEOs, it is reprehensible that the Westpac CEO thinks that watching videos of his customers complaining about the bank he serves without making any attempt to meet with them is acceptable behaviour on his part. What does he think this is? Some prime-time game show put on for his pleasure?

    Is just demonstrates the total disconnect between these people and the customers who pay their salaries.

    It will take a complete shake up of the entire banking system and the regulators who have allowed - in fact designed - all this to happen before we will see real improvement for the customers, both personal and business.

  • by Tim H 12/10/2018 3:23:55 PM

    Craig you are correct to say that many people have benefitted from securing finance whether it be for a home, business or other personal purposes but where the bank's conduct falls way short is when they have done something wrong or been asked to investigate a matter.
    As Ms O'Neill noted her constituent has been in dispute with the bank for 12 years due to a fraud issue by a third party. Surely someone at the bank could have taken better ownership of this matter. There are many cases documented where similar issues have arisen and even worse and the banks have handled these disputes very poorly. .
    Interestingly I have had reason to raise concerns regarding some dealings clients of mine have had with one of the big four banks, the first about four years ago and the second just last month with two very contrasting results. .
    In the first my clients, a pensioner couple, had been dealing with the bank for almost a year before they were referred to me by a family friend of theirs. I wrote to the bank on the clients behalf and was referred to the Ombudsman who then referred me back to the bank who took almost three months investigating this. They then came back to me saying the lending officer was not trained to be a financial planner and the clients should have sought their own financial advice and no compensation was forthcoming. This despite the lending officer recommending and then processing a strategy for the clients that was clearly in the bank's favour.
    In the second only two months ago the matter was looked at and dealt with in the client's favour within a week. Again a lending officer had recommended and then processed a strategy that was clearly in the bank's favour. I received no reply to my submission to the bank and only new the matter had been dealt with when the clients called me to say thank you.
    Truly amazing how a Royal Commission can change a bank's attitude.