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Even bank staff are worried by banker bonus arrangements: Survey

Bank staff
A new survey shows even bank staff aren't happy with the incentives-based model. Photo: Getty
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Australians are up in arms over conflicted incentives programs offered to bank staff as part of their pay packets, and a recent survey shows even bank staff view the arrangements as problematic.

A study of more than 7000 financial sector employees conducted by the Finance Sector Union (FSU) found just over a third of staff within the big four banks don’t believe the performance objectives set by their superiors “genuinely prioritise the best interests of the customer”.

In fact, many bank employees (particularly frontline staff) have been expressing concerns that bonus structures have prioritised profit over customers for the past decade, FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said, but have struggled to have their issues heard by senior management.

“They want to feel professional again. They don’t want to feel like they have to jump on the train, and some of them are literally hiding their logos or getting changed before getting on the train,” she said.

Julia Angrisano
FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano says bank staff have pushed for change for decades.

However, the sales-oriented culture that still sees profit-driven ‘leaderboards’ used in many wings of the banks extends beyond the performance objectives presented to frontline staff, Ms Angrisano said, and a sweeping culture change from the top of the organisations down is needed to fix the problem.

Ms Angrisano pointed to the recommendations of the Sedgwick Review (commissioned by lobby group Australian Bankers’ Association) as evidence of the need for cultural change, noting while the review’s recommended changes to bank staff remuneration have been implemented on paper, FSU members have said sales-driven attitudes still permeate the business.

“Manager scorecards didn’t necessarily change, or the way managers attracted their bonuses didn’t change and were still very much based on revenue, so they still managed with a stick,” Ms Angrisano said. 

In some cases, non-sales related targets were turned into sales-based ones, and Ms Angrisano gave the example of staff being told they weren’t ‘team players’ because they weren’t selling enough product – turning what was intended to be a behavioural goal into a sales target.

“Banks have different terms and jargon for them, too – ‘You’re not being courageous enough’ is one that one of the banks used, where you’re not being courageous because you haven’t sold enough,” she said.

Bank leaders agree to meet staff

The FSU has contacted each of the four major banks’ senior management teams, as well as AMP, with the results of the survey and all have agreed to meet frontline staff to discuss these performance objectives, plus other findings made in the survey.

“It’s that sense of having targets and outcomes that pit the livelihoods of bank workers against their customers that they want changed – it has got to change,” Ms Angrisano said.

Responding to questions from The New Daily, NAB said it “continue[s] to look for ways to become an even better bank for our customers” and has included “customer, risk, transformation, people and financial outcomes” into its performance scorecards “in a balanced way”.

A spokesperson for Commonwealth Bank said the business has redesigned its performance targets in the wake of the Sedgwick Review.

“In 2017 … we announced changes to the remuneration of our frontline employees, increasing the focus on customer service and rewarding tellers for delivering better customer outcomes, not financial outcomes,” the spokesperson said.

“We then further simplified the key performance indicators from July 1 (2018) for our customer service representatives and assistants (tellers) into a single KPI focused 100 per cent on customer outcomes.” 

ANZ was unable to meet The New Daily’s deadline, and Westpac declined to comment.

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