CBA, Westpac CEOs grilled

Westpac was asked about a “blizzard of brands” creating customer confusion

CBA, Westpac CEOs grilled


By Rebecca Pike

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.

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