The chief executive of ANZ has apologised to a parliamentary committee for comments made by one of the bank’s executives which trivialised the importance of repaying wronged customers.
ANZ head Shayne Elliott admitted his bank was one of two which described the remediation of customers as “a distraction”, during a combative public hearing to the House of Representatives standing committee on economics review of the banks, on Friday morning.
Committee member Matt Keogh questioned Mr Elliott over ANZ’s approach to remediation and suggested the bank has been “dragging [their] feet” when it came to refunding customers.
The royal commission’s interim report made similar remarks, saying ANZ needed to take action to remediate its customers “much quicker” than its current processes do.
In one example, ANZ took 15 years to repay money owed to its customers.
Mr Keogh put it to Mr Elliott that part of the issue was ANZ’s concerns around the cost that remediation would have on shareholders.
“You said, literally minutes ago, that it’s their money. But it’s not the investors’ money; it’s actually the customers’ money, the investors were never entitled to it in the first place,” Mr Keogh said to a round of applause.
“It should have been in the customers’ pocket the whole time.”
Massive round of applause for @mattkeogh at Parli hearing for pointing out to ANZ boss @ElliottShayne that remediation monies are not shareholder funds but customer money. Mr Elliott says he misspoke when he said that earlier in the hearing, apologises, again, #BankingRC
— Sarah Danckert (@sdanck) October 11, 2018
Mr Keogh also cited an ASIC report which outlined documents from the four major banks, in which two of the banks described remediation as a distraction. Mr Elliott conceded ANZ was one of these two.
“We did not pay sufficient attention to remediation,” Mr Elliott said.
However, Mr Elliott stopped short of saying the bank had a cultural problem with remediating its customers, and added that several changes had been made within the bank to improve the remediation process.
ASIC also under fire
Greens MP Adam Bandt questioned Mr Elliott and ANZ deputy chief executive Alexis George Jon on a number of regulatory actions taken against the bank by corporate regulator ASIC.
However, Mr Bandt said the responses to the bank’s misconduct were underwhelming and took aim at the regulator itself.
“You don’t take ASIC seriously at all, you’re just in bed with ASIC,” he said.
The questions came off the back of the banking royal commission’s interim report which found an enforceable undertaking ANZ entered into with ASIC was inadequate and the watchdog’s process had been dragged out by the bank with little consequence.
Surprisingly though, Mr Elliott defended the regulator when asked whether or not ASIC’s approach to regulating the banks was “unacceptable”.
Mr Elliott is the third chief executive to go before the standing committee this week.
NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn will face the committee on October 19.