Australians are punishing the nation’s big four banks for the misconduct uncovered by a royal commission, according to the head of ANZ who has accepted responsibility for the harm caused by his bank.
Shayne Elliott has told a parliamentary hearing he was “appalled” to learn through the royal commission the impact ANZ has had on some Australians.
“It is completely unacceptable that we have caused financial harm and emotional stress to our customers,” he told a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Friday.
“As CEO since 2016, I’m ultimately accountable for this.”
The chief executive said the bank has broken the trust of many of its customers and lamented its history of failing to hold poor conduct accountable.
ANZ has made changes to turn this around, he said, with senior executives now aware of exactly what they’re liable for.
A handful of ANZ’s top brass have been among 200 employees sacked over misconduct in the past year, he revealed.
Mr Elliott also said the public has taken out their anger on the big banks.
He said the banking sector is the most competitive it has been in a decade, with non-major banks now growing at a much faster rate than ANZ, the Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and NAB.
ANZ’s profitability is also “dramatically lower” than it has been in the past 10 years, he said.
Mr Elliott, who also chairs the Australian Banking Association, said he didn’t know if the shift was solely because of misconduct exposed by the royal commission but suggested it has played a role.
“We have been punished,” he told the inquiry on Friday.
“The reality is that the sector, and including ANZ, our return on equity has fallen from 17-18 per cent to 11.”
The bank has also refined its processes for remediating customers affected by misconduct, with a team of 165 people now focused on making up for wrongs.
Changes to incentives for frontline bank staff are also in ANZ’s sights.
Mr Elliott is the third banking head to have been grilled by the MPs this week, after the Commonwealth Bank’s Matt Comyn and Westpac’s Brian Hartzer fronted the committee on Thursday.
Both acknowledged their institutions took too long to address misconduct that was eventually uncovered by a royal commission and they have their work cut out for them to regain the public’s trust.
The hearings come two weeks after banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC delivered an interim report, blaming greed and the pursuit of profit for the widespread misconduct in the banking and financial services industries.
National Australia Bank boss Andrew Thorburn will appear next Friday.