ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott has explained why the big four banks asked the government for a royal commission, as well as the risk that it will go “in all sorts of directions”.
In an ANZ Bluenotes podcast interview with Sally Warhaft, published on 19 December, Mr Elliott said there has been a “massive shift” in community expectations around the financial services industry.
Essentially, he said, these expectations are about how bankers behave. Conduct has become the key focus.
“We acknowledge that and accept that we have not necessarily behaved to the standards that we should have in the past and we are really busy on identifying those failures and remediating them,” Mr Elliott said.
“We recognise that within the community there is an element of frustration about the time that this is taking. And I guess a concern about whether we are doing enough at the right scale or speed, so the demands for a royal commission are understandable. We personally don’t think a royal commission is necessary. We would rather just get on with fixing things. But we understand there is that community desire.”
While he stressed that ANZ has “nothing to hide”, the CEO is realistic about the upcoming inquiry, which will probe Australia’s banking and financial services industry.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be pleasant. I think the risk of royal commissions is high, because they can go in all sorts of directions. But we are prepared to be accountable about what we have done in the past and what we are doing now about the future,” Mr Elliott said.
At the end of November last year, the chairmen and chief executives of the big four banks, including Mr Elliott, penned a letter Treasurer Scott Morrison stating that, while they have consistently argued that a commission was unwarranted, they now believe it is in the national interest.
Malcolm Turnbull then announced that a royal commission would go ahead, saying it is the “only way” to restore public faith in the banking sector.
The opposition has been calling for a royal commission for more than 18 months. The debate itself, Mr Elliott said, was doing harm.
“It was doing harm to our industry, to our reputation and that’s why we thought it was best to cauterise this thing and move on. That’s why we signed up to the letter to government,” he said.
Former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne has been appointed to head the royal commission, which will have 12 months to complete its inquiries.
A final report expected to be delivered by 1 February 2019.