Commonwealth Bank workers have denied trying to benefit financially after it was revealed staff were depositing free money – sometimes out of their own pockets – into children’s accounts to make them appear active.
Staff were depositing about 10 cents into inactive Youthsaver accounts, the bank confirmed in a statement on Saturday. It followed a Fairfax Media investigation that found employees used their own loose change or the bank’s money to pump up thousands of accounts.
The bank banned the practice after it was uncovered in 2013, according to CBA chief executive Matt Comyn. He was “deeply sorry” and promised no “financial harm” came to any customers.
“When customers open an account, they put their trust in us and that’s particularly true when the account holder is a child,” Mr Comyn said in a statement.
“There is now a line in the sand and we have zero tolerance for behaviour such as this, irrespective of whether there is customer harm.”
CBA claimed it was a scam designed to help employees boost their yearly bonuses.
But according to the bank, the additional employee bonus was, on average, less than two dollars in total per year.
The Finance Sector Union (FSU) denied staff were trying to benefit financially. Instead, the scandal was “yet more evidence” that employees of the big banks were forced to meet “unrealistic” sales targets, the union said.
“This story is not about bank workers trying to gain a financial windfall through a bonus,” the FSU said in a statement.
“As the bank itself noted, staff who activated these accounts with their own money were generally out of pocket as the amount of the deposit was greater than any associated bonus.
“Rather, staff were victim of aggressive sales targets to meet KPIs to stay in work. It is unacceptable that bank workers would be put under such extreme pressure that in this case led to referrals being made up to avoid being shamed in the workplace.”
Many children have signed up to Youthsaver accounts through the Dollarmites program which has run through public schools for decades.
The CBA scandal comes as the banking royal commission continues to unearth a culture of misconduct in the industry, eroding political and public confidence in the banks.
Beginning Monday, the bank inquiry will turn its attention to small business owners who have been wronged by banks. This focus will continue for the next two weeks.
– with AAP