NAB chairman Ken Henry has issued a grovelling apology to bank customers on TV after being grilled by host Leigh Sales over the recent damning royal commission findings.
Just hours after announcing he was stepping down from his role, Henry insisted it was his way of showing accountability in the wake of the commission as he gave an in depth interview on ABC’s 7.30 show.
“At times like this, when a royal commission shines such an intense spotlight on an industry which has proved incapable of meeting customer expectations, on a consistent basis, it’s appropriate that senior people in the organisation step up and take accountability,” he said on the program.
“We’re deeply sorry. We have got a mountain to climb if we want to achieve our aspirations… As I see it NAB does aspire to do the right thing by every customer every time but we’re a long way away from that.”
He’s not the only boss to have stepped down from NAB, as CEO Andrew Thorburn has also handed in his resignation.
Henry insisted that both of them “accept the findings” of the commission and agreed that there is a “significant gap” between what customers expect and what they’re getting.
Henry was accused of being “contemptuous” and “unable to accept criticism” when he was first questioned as part of the commission, and when asked about the behaviour by Sales, he admitted he did “not perform well”.
“The more I thought about it and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relived that experience. I understand the criticism,” he admitted. “I did not perform well. I really should have performed quite differently. I should have been much more open.”
The final report from the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was released on Monday, laying bare a total of 76 recommendations for change and improvement within the sector.
Led by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC, the public inquiry held four rounds of hearings, considered more than 10,000 complaints from the public and examined thousands of documents, contributing to the lengthy final report which was published in three volumes.
The 530-page royal commission report was published online on Monday, three days after it was presented to the government, with Hayne also referring 24 companies to two regulators for investigation over criminal or civil charges.
In it, he singled out both Henry and Thorburn and, mentioning them both by name, said he was “not as confident as he would wish” that they have learned from past mistakes.
“I was not persuaded that NAB is willing to accept the necessary responsibility for deciding, for itself, what is the right thing to do, and then having its staff act accordingly,” Hayne wrote in the report.
Thorburn personally responded to the report in the form of a video on Tuesday morning, in which he said NAB were “taking steps” to earn back their customers’ trust through action.
“We embrace the ambition and the recommendations that are contained in the report,” he said, directly addressing the bank’s customer base. “There is clearly more work to do for us at NAB.
“Our people are committed, we want to earn your trust, we want to get better, but that trust gets earned by actions and decisions that we make every single day. And I believe that we have been making better decisions to put you first…but it is clear we need to lift even more to rise and serve you better.”
Describing himself as “a proud banker for 30 years”, Thorburn wrapped up the video by stressing that NAB are taking the report seriously and committed to implementing the commissioner’s recommendations.