Australian Banking Association CEO Anna Bligh has changed her tune on the royal commission, saying “sunlight is a powerful disinfectant”.
Ms Bligh famously opposed the royal commission, claiming that banks might suffer reputational damage from being associated with an inquiry that lacked “any real substance or evidence”.
“They have faced the scrutiny now of more than 37 reviews, investigations and inquiries,” Ms Bligh said in a speech at the National Press Club in 2017.
“The reputational damage that is done to our finance system has a ripple effect on consumers. If you care about customers and consumers, you should think about that.”
Ms Bligh issued a mea culpa following the release of the commission’s final report, but made her strongest statement on the matter at the House standing committee on economics on Friday.
“If you go back to 2016 and 2017, many of the issues that were subsequently identified in the royal commission were already known to the industry, they were known to regulators, they were known to members of this Parliament, and the industry of that time was of the view that there was perhaps not much more to be gained,” Ms Bligh said.
“I think the lesson is that sunlight is a very powerful disinfectant.”
Ms Bligh said that the royal commission had been an “excoriating” process for Australian banks, but zeroed in on frontline staff rather than C-suite executives.
“That very public lens enabled staff and people who work in banks to see things which had perhaps been seen as industry practice through a very different public lens and refocus their own thinking on the activities of their bank and to see how much more quickly they needed to fix those things and give them some guidance,” she said.
Ms Bligh also highlighted the example of staff in regional bank branches who prepared documents for commission case studies having to re-examine cases they or their branch might have been involved in, saying “the ripple effect” of those processes shouldn’t be underestimated.
“I don’t think that anyone who works in the frontline of banking is under any illusions that failure to comply will have consequences,” she said.
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