Westpac’s top brass has expressed hopes that the recently announced royal commission into financial services will put a stop to further inquiries into the sector.
Speaking at Westpac’s annual general meeting on 8 December, Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer voiced sentiments that the royal commission announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on 30 November was not needed.
“On the issue of the royal commission, we believe reforms by government, actions of our regulators and the proactive actions of the industry itself made such an inquiry unnecessary,” Mr Hartzer said.
However, banks have “been a political football for too long”, he continued.
“That’s why we have now accepted the need for a royal commission to create certainty and confidence in our banking system,” he said.
“We are embracing the royal commission as a way to finally draw a line in the sand on calls for inquiries.”
Speaking at the same meeting, Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted admitted “some” of the criticism of banks was defensible and there had been some instances where the banking sector had failed to meet customer expectations and banks had underestimated the subsequent backlash from customers, regulators and the government.
However, multiple inquiries into the sector have been launched into the sector in the past 12 months already, Mr Maxsted said.
“Given the significant changes that have already taken place or are underway, including as a result of regulatory scrutiny and government inquiries, Westpac has consistently argued that further inquiries into the sector, including a royal commission, are unwarranted,” he said.
But Westpac and other major Australian banks had last week come to the conclusion that it was “in the national interest for the political uncertainty and speculation around potential commissions of inquiry to end”, Mr Maxsted said.
“In this context, it is our hope that, ultimately, the newly announced royal commission will play a role in restoring trust, respect and confidence in Australia’s already strong financial system,” he said.
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