On the whole, it has been a good start to the week for the major banks. Share prices have bumped up significantly, and it looks as if the market is going to react well to the developments that are emerging out of the long-awaited Royal Commission report.
However, it is not going quite so well for those who have been singled out for particular criticism by Commissioner Hayne, with the likes of Andrew Thorburn of National Australia Bank (NAB) now having to defend himself in the wake of some strong disapproval.
The NAB chief executive had initially set aside a period of leave to help deal with the fallout from the inquiry, but he has instead shelved those plans and returned to work, partly to try and combat these words coming from Hayne.
In an effort to clear his name, Thorburn has said NAB did not act dishonestly during this period, where like the other major lenders it has been accused of a series of financially negligent offences.
The issues center around their wealth management arm, where he and chairman Ken Henry have come under fire for the bank charging customers and clients for services they never received. The total incoming figure for this was said to be up to $100million, which many are now said to be consulting legal action for, in order to be remunerated.
Thorburn has maintained he has the full support of his board, but they are set to meet again on Thursday, and many analysts feel his position will be difficult to maintain if the public weight of support is fully behind the commission and any government response as a result.
There is a growing feeling that some heads need to roll in order to draw a line under this series of scandals which has rocked the banking sector, and plenty of executives have had to leave their posts when news broke early last year. However, none have gone since, and it remains to be seen whether Thorburn will be able to successfully dig his heels in.
The chief executive said the main bone of discontent with Hayne was to do with him being labeled dishonest, and he said given his definition of it was ‘deliberately doing something you know to be wrong’, he did not feel the term applied to him.
He was happy to concede that NAB had allowed ‘poor systems’, a culture of ‘carelessness’ to pervade and ‘competency issues’ to rock the foundation of the bank and create a series of longstanding issues, but felt he had no idea that it was happening to this level, and that it was not intentional.
Despite criticisms that the head of a bank should know exactly what they were doing in this regard, one of the reasons Hayne has been calling for more admission of guilt, Thorburn said: ‘we implemented something we thought was right, and it wasn’t implemented properly.’
Hayne said that given the scale of the problem and the financial cost of sorting it all out, it was ‘telling’ that it was viewed as ‘nothing more than carelessness combined with system deficiencies’ by Thorburn, and felt this was reason enough to lambast him.
The chairman Henry was quick to support his ailing chief executive, saying he was ‘disappointed’ with Hayne’s conclusion. There is a growing sentiment among investors that although Thorburn has performed well in terms of the numbers, his image means he may well have to be moved along.