Bank bosses try to repair damage after shock admission

GREEDY, complacent and too slow to fix problems - the bosses of the Commonwealth and Westpac banks yesterday admitted their institutions had a lot of changes to make up for the immense damage done to their customers.

But at a parliamentary hearing in Canberra yesterday, Commonwealth Bank (CBA) chief executive Matt Comyn and Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer also said they had begun the epic task of ­rebuilding trust.

Mr Comyn, who took the top job at the Commonwealth Bank six months ago, said the bank had been too slow to fix customer service problems.

 

CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Matt Comyn. Picture: Gary Ramage
CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Matt Comyn. Picture: Gary Ramage

 

CEO of Westpac Brian Hartzer. Picture Gary Ramage
CEO of Westpac Brian Hartzer. Picture Gary Ramage

"There have unfortunately been failures of judgment, failures of process, failures of leadership, and in some instances, greed," he said. "We've been too slow to identify problems, too slow to fix underlying issues, and too slow to put things right for customers.

"We became complacent."

Westpac was also too slow to grapple with customer issues, particularly in its financial ­advice services area, Mr Hart­zer said. "We weren't quick enough to identify and fix the problems, and we accept the consequences of this delay."

But the duo said they were attempting to rectify the mistakes. Both said they had have improved accountability by clarifying exactly what each of their senior executives are liable for. And they said incentives to staff at branches had also changed at both banks.

Mr Cormyn said 41 Commonwealth staff had been sacked so far this year and another nine were stood down as they were being investigated.

"I accept that, and understand that you will judge me, and the Commonwealth Bank, on our act­ions," he said. Mr Cormyn said among the changes introduced were strengthened lending processes and making it simpler for customers to choose products.

 

Banks are now trying to rebuild trust with their customers. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Banks are now trying to rebuild trust with their customers. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

 

Mr Hartzer said improving Westpac's complaints process had been central to its response, with a new group executive hired to oversee it.

"From an overall reputation point of view, this is obviously going to take years to restore," Mr Hartzer said.

The hearing comes two weeks after banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC delivered an interim report, blaming greed and the pursuit of profit for misconduct in the banking and financial services sector.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elli­ott will appear on Friday, while National Australia Bank boss Andrew Thorburn will appear next week.



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