Acting NAB CEO Philip Chronican says that the bank failed to live up to their core values, but doesn’t believe those values need a reset.
The comments came during the standing committee on economics review of the four major banks and other financial institutions. Part of the discussion focused on whether NAB and the wider banking industry needed to review their values to avoid slipping back into “business as usual” after remediation had been paid out and the fallout from the royal commission had settled.
“If something fundamental isn’t done, are we actually going to change the culture?” MP Daniel Mulino asked.
Mr Mulino also noted that NAB’s stated goals were still oriented towards increasing market share rather than protecting customer interests.
However, Mr Chronican doesn’t believe that NAB’s values need a total reset.
“The criticism of the royal commission was, in most cases, that we failed to live up to our own standards,” Mr Chronican said.
“Indeed, on a number of occasions, the royal commissioner himself said that it wasn’t that the law needed to change, it was that people needed to obey the law.”
Chief financial officer Gary Lennon echoed the point, saying that it wasn’t a matter of throwing the values out, but adhering more strongly to them.
“We did go back and review the values in the context of the royal commission and made that decision that it’s actually not a problem with the values, it’s a problem with ensuring we get the organisation complying with those values.”
However, Mr Chronican noted that new chief executive Ross McEwan may well conduct a review of the company’s values.
The question of whether NAB had undergone internal changes since the royal commission was also raised by the committee.
According to MP Andrew Leigh, another member of the committee, NAB’s 2018 staff survey showed that around a quarter of staff reported that they feared retribution if they reported unethical conduct. The survey also asked participants whether they agreed with the statement “people who deliver strong results aren’t excused from the rules”. Only 25 per cent agreed.
Mr Chronican said that in aggregate, many of the categories were “largely unchanged” in the 2019 survey, but couldn’t recall the specific answer.
However, Mr Chronican noted that staff surveys were conducted in May and claimed that monthly ‘pulse’ surveys had shown “slow but steady” improvement over the course of the year.
“I think we are making some progress, but I’m under no illusion that there’s serious work that needs to be done to make people more comfortable with raising issues to make sure we reinforce the message that it is important to lead from a values-led perspective.”
The comments came on the last day of Mr Chronican’s role as acting CEO.