The Australian banking system review

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, May 2nd, 2018 - 17 comments
Categories: australian politics, business, capitalism, Economy, Financial markets, International, jacinda ardern - Tags:

The review into Australia’s banking system really matters to New Zealand. The Australian Royal Commission into Banking has held actual inquiries with evidence from actual citizens and customers, and is issuing reports about the performance of each bank. I’ll leave you to research the other reports, including all the daily humiliations of their customers, but the one issued about the Commonwealth Bank is a slam.

The banks, these towers of power, are being held to account in a way I have never seen before.

For those not aware, BNZ is owned by National Australia Bank. ASB is owned by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. BNZ is owned by National Australia Bank. ANZ and Westpac are of course Australian.

It’s almost all of our banking. For the doughty few who are in Kiwibank or otherwise, good on you, but sadly the whole of New Zealand is a small branch office of the Australian banking system.

Here’s the Melbourne Age’s view of things, and it’s an opinion as angry as it is informed.

The actual Royal Commission report card is here.

The report paints a picture of an organization where the Board failed to challenge their executive team who had a propensity to bury bad news and weave it into something positive. If issues were found they weren’t followed up, allowing them to fester into bigger problems, If they spilled into the public arena, they paid any financial penalty and sailed on not giving a damn.

Despite our Prime Minister saying a week ago that the Australian banking inquiry “will be of use and interest to us”, our new head of the Reserve Bank Adrian Orr dismissed it.
He believes that our banking culture is better than Australia.

Hopefully he will learn to take a Prime Ministers lead, or provide outstanding evidence for his claim.

Maybe this is the issue with putting an investment leader from NZSuperfund in charge of our banking regulator. Maybe it’s just he’s new to the job. Or he might find that the findings of the Australian Royal Commission will get added to the Terms of Reference of the review of the Reserve Bank now underway.

We can argue about how much the Australian banks have been strip-mining New Zealand.

And the alternatives to Australian banks for consumers, though small and weak here, do exist.

The point is, you measure a government by how brave they are. The last time any government here really had a crack at a large corporation was when the Clark government finally forced Telecom to be competitive, and all hell went down about that.

The Turnbull government, run by an investment banker, showed no qualms about taking on the biggest of the biggest on. The head of the ANZ has already resigned, and there will be a lot more before this review is done.

I hate banks. I hate interest. But banks have been with us for a very long time, and they are not going away.

Good government can take on the biggest of the biggest, and it needs to takes them down. In doing so it strengthens the state against capital.

It’s still the case – at least in Australia – that only the state can do this.

I hope that is the core lesson for this government. Be brave and take them on.

Meantime, Turnbull’s Royal Inquiry is doing New Zealand an almighty good service.

17 comments on “The Australian banking system review”

  1. roy cartland 1

    “I hate interest.”

    Can you elaborate on this a little bit? Is it just because it’s a rent on something the owner isn’t even using that someone has to pay because they need it (like a rental property)? How would a system work without it?

  2. Hooch 2

    I’m not sure I’d credit Turnbull much, he tried to resist and downplay this inquiry.

    • tc 2.1

      Malcom’s a banker so he knows what’s at stake here and he’s been grilled by a royal commission before. The HIH insurance collapse in 2002.

      He’s relented after fighting it behind closed door tooth and nail as it’s about political survival nothing more. Tony’s snookered him here as he doesn’t care that it’s got the potential to ruin them all which would be well deserved.

      Mal’s probably aware of the banking practices and the fact these royal commissions have teeth, they bite hard, dig even harder and have wide discretionary powers….unlike here.

  3. dukeofurl 3

    The head of ANZ hasnt resigned.

    You may be referring to the token immediate departure of the head of AMP ( he had given his notice to leave in Dec before the Commission started its hearings)

    The idea that Turnbull was a willing party to this Royal Commission is laughable
    https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/banking-inquiry-all-but-inevitable-after-another-nationals-mp-vows-to-cross-floor-20171127-gztm8l.html

  4. Zorb6 4

    NZ Banking Assoc head McClean was on RNZ this morning saying just how different the culture here in NZ is compared to that of the parent banks in Australia.
    He tried to make the case that NZ had more effective oversight mechanisms.
    He mentioned they employ human beings in Australia that made mistakes.
    He was totally unconvincing and Espiner pointed out the C’V’s of senior banking executives in NZ and their previous roles in Australia.
    McClean laboured on employing NZ’ers and a ‘Kiwi’ culture that was distinct and subject to the banking ombudsman.
    Trust the big 4 banks?

    • SpaceMonkey 4.1

      A load of rubbish from McClean. So we’re expected to believe that because of our Kiwi cultural approach to things everything here is dandy. In my experience our “she’ll be right”, head burying apathy produces exactly the opposite and allows these executives and directors to get away with murder… sometimes literally.

      I don’t trust the entire corporate culture, let alone the big 4 banks. The frustration for me is that’s my professional world. It’s a bloody club with a toxic reach into our political system.

    • Dave 4.2

      I certainly dont.

  5. SpaceMonkey 5

    “The report paints a picture of an organization where the Board failed to challenge their executive team who had a propensity to bury bad news and weave it into something positive.”

    Yet another good example of corporate governance failure. I guess as long as they’re all making pots of money (and a banking licence is a literal licence to create money) they don’t really care.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    Quoting from the Melbourne Age’s Editorial.

    Before the appointment of the new chair Catherine Livingstone in 2017, the report found, the board’s agenda was “relatively static” and “not tailored to the issues, risks or focal areas that demanded attention”.

    This is standard Ivory Tower thinking and it is, IMO, what you’re going to get in every hierarchy when the people at the top are entrenched. Things are working for them and so they do nothing about all the problems.

    Capitalism is all hierarchies and putting a few people at the top so that they can then bludge off of the rest of us. As such, it will always engender this type of thinking and thus will always fail.

    What we need is for businesses to become cooperatives where everyone is cycled through management and worker positions. This will ensure that everyone who works there fully understands the business and has opportunities to suggest and implement their own ideas.

    This report lays bare something else we have known for a long time: the cosy connections between directors, executives, consultants and regulators. If things are to change, this needs to stop.

    Yes, the majority of us have known for a long time that the Old Boys Club is corrupt but what’s stopped anything being done about it? Is it that our democracy isn’t democratic and thus preventing the people at the top from being held to account?

    In the case of its audit committee she will need to consider whether the audit committee chairman Brian Long deserves to remain in that position until he retires in October.

    He needs to be fired. He failed to do his job and you don’t keep people like that in place and this failure needs to be seen to be addressed. Letting him retire without firing him won’t be doing that. It’ll just be proving that the Old Boys Club is still looking after its own.

    • SpaceMonkey 6.1

      +1 However, cooperatives can still be hierarchical. The key differentiator is ownership.

      The executive MUST be accountable to its board and the board MUST be accountable to the business owner(s).

      At present we have in many business organisations the executive operating regardless of board directives and boards directing without regard to the shareholders. IMO, what we need to do is casualise the executive and return control to the owners.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        IMO, what we need to do is casualise the executive and return control to the owners.

        Little difficult to do that when the first thing we need to do is to get rid of the owners.

  7. Ad 7

    A little update:

    The Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank spoke with the heads of New Zealand’s major banks on Monday, telling them to provide evidence that they’re not engaged in practices unearthed by a Royal Commission in Australia, an RBNZ spokesman confirmed. There was no set timetable for responses.

    “We’ve asked them to provide reassurances to us that they have scrubbed their business models, and they have a basis for being confident that those issues don’t exist here,” FMA Chief Executive Rob Everett told Radio New Zealand, which first reported the news. “We’ll be testing some of what they show us to make sure that we think it really stacks up.”

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-01/new-zealand-banks-feel-the-heat-from-australia-s-bad-behavior

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      The Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank spoke with the heads of New Zealand’s major banks on Monday, telling them to provide evidence that they’re not engaged in practices unearthed by a Royal Commission in Australia, an RBNZ spokesman confirmed. There was no set timetable for responses.

      So the banks will send a letter saying Yes, we aren’t doing any of that. and that will be it?

      Yeah, you don’t get the truth unless you go looking for it. This is just more of the regulator not doing their job.

  8. Dave 8

    I think our banking situation will be even worse than Australia. Everything I have read suggests they take more advantage of kiwis, higher fees, charges, penalties etc and make very large profits. Its difficult to believe that it doesn’t cross all aspects of their corporate culture.

    • Tricledrown 8.1

      Dave $5billion profit and rising Cartels run NZ.
      When ever they get exposed they run massive PR campaigns to cover their collusion.
      Price gouging and forced up selling.
      Monopolistic behaviour.

  9. Paul Campbell 9

    imagine you went to your bank for financial advice, and they recommended a better financial account you could put your kiwisaver in, a few months later you discover that your $60k savings have become $45k because they neglected to stress the substantial penalty for early withdrawal.

    That’s the sort of thing that’s happened in Oz, by the very same banks we have here. Part of the problem is that in Oz, like here, people who work in banks live in a world of stress, because their take home pay depends on how much money they earn for the bank, churn is good for them, but is seldom good for you and I because it means more fees to the bank.

    In general your retirement should be in a long term diversified investment, you should dial down the risk as you approach retirement age – don’t get sucked into specialised all-your-eggs-in-one basket high risk high return things.

    Anyway I can’t believe that the NZ arms of the Australian banks aren’t as predatory (or even more so) than their parent offices, they suck billions in profits out of our economy every year – of course we should do at least the same oversight as they do in Australia and probably more so – roll on a NZ royal banking enquiry ….

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