The Australian financial sector has been hit hard by the recent royal commission, after the public inquiry exposed countless examples of unacceptable behaviour and practices being carried out by the country’s biggest banks, including National Australia Bank.
On Friday, NAB Chief Executive Andrew Thorburn issued an apology to the bank’s customers as he was underwent questioning by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics in Canberra, according to reports from the AAP, published in the Herald Sun.
Thorburn also revealed that a total of 700 employees had faced punishment over the “appalling behaviour” exposed by the commission, with 300 of those having been sacked or left the company of their own accord, after being questioned in relation to their conduct, while others had their pay docked or faced other penalties.
The CEO added that a total of 1,200 members of staff had been grilled about their professional behaviour, as Thorburn admitted he felt “upset” and “ashamed” over some of the harrowing stories uncovered by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne.
“The royal commission has exposed issues in our bank and the industry that have been confronting and upsetting,” Thorburn said. “I feel this deeply, having worked in our profession for more than three decades. In so many cases, we have not had the care and respect for our customers that we should have. And for that, I am sorry.”
Thorburn faced the committee on Friday morning, following appearances last week from Commonwealth Bank’s Matthew Comyn, Westpac’s Brian Hartzer and Shayne Elliott from ANZ.
CommBank CEO Comyn was the first to face the panel of federal members last Thursday, alongside Chief Risk Officer David Cohen, when he admitted that there had been “failures of judgement, failures of leadership and greed” within his institution, saying they “became complacent” when it came to addressing customer issues uncovered by Commission Hayne’s inquiry.
Comyn also slammed the practice of ‘fees for no service’, particularly the practice of continuing to charge fees to customers after they had passed away. Describing it as “completely reprehensible conduct”, Comyn said two advisors had been sacked in relation to the issue while another dissolved his partnership.
“It’s unacceptable conduct that should never have occurred,” he said. “We have been too slow to identify problems, too slow to fix underlying issues, and too slow to put things right with customers. We became complacent.”
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