It’s unanimous: Economists’ poll says we can fix the banks. But that doesn’t mean we will



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Most of the economists polled think better regulation can make banks put customers first. The rest think it will need more.
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Gigi Foster, UNSW and Paul Frijters, London School of Economics and Political Science

After three years and 35 polls, the Economic Society of Australia has received its first-ever unanimous response to a survey question.

It asked just over 50 of Australia’s leading economists to respond to this statement:

There is no way to significantly increase the degree to which Australian retail banks act in the interests of consumers.

Twenty did. All rejected the proposition that nothing could be done. But there was widespread disagreement about what should be done.

Most thought that regulations should be tightened and better enforced.

Mathew Butlin’s comments typify this “more regulation” approach:

The incentive structures for bank staff, from the top down, play a key role in shaping behaviour. A more complete set of performance measures linked to remuneration that strongly penalises behaviour not in the consumer interest would provide stronger incentives for better behaviour, especially when linked with reliable information on non-compliance going to management and ultimately the bank board and a requirement for both to take action.

A smaller group openly doubted that better regulations would
help, because they were not confident that the current crop of regulators or politicians would be able to devise and properly enforce them.

Allan Fels gave the most damning response (with the highest word count) saying what was needed – among other things – was a
“radical improvement in the performance” of the two main regulators, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

In particular they need a change of culture. This will prove to be harder to do than it sounds. People have been talking for over twenty years about the ASIC and APRA culture needing improvement.

Geoffrey Kingston called for mandatory minimum sentences
for financial crimes, arguing that the courts were complicit in the maintenance of financial crimes by being reluctant to jail white-collar criminals.

Kingston and Joaquin Vespignani pointed to the monopoly power of the big four banks before then raising the hope that the “big data” revolution would democratise banking and re-empower consumers, an idea at the heart of the government’s Consumer Data Right initiative.

Also targeting market concentration, Allan Fels, James Morley, and
John Quiggin called for the separation of bank functions (with marketing separate from advice) or the breakup of banks themselves as happened in the United States under the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated investment banks from deposit-taking banks.

Gigi Foster called for foreign countries to send competent regulators to sort out Australian’s banking system, suggesting that Australian regulators were compromised.

John Quiggin called for a stand-alone “no frills” public bank modelled on New Zealand’s Kiwibank, something he hoped would rein in the expansion of the financial sector that began in the 1970s. But he added:

These proposals may be beyond the realm of political feasibility, which is why I have expressed only modest confidence in my view.

Quiggin and a substantial minority of those polled acknowledged that – uncomfortably for economists – many of the barriers to getting banks to behave better lay outside the realm of economics. Like well-meaning doctors, economists have been dispensing prescriptions that “should work”, while the patient continues to die.

But standard prescriptions have their place – among them removing commissions, imposing salary caps, imposing fee caps, revoking licences and setting minimum jail terms, all of which would change the balance of risks and rewards and help put money back into the pcokets of ordinary Australians.

Of course, even applying traditional economic prescriptions require political will.

Perhaps surprisingly for a group of “dismal scientists”, 20 of Australia’s leading economists believe that change is possible. It isn’t the economics that is dismal, it’s the dearth of political courage to do what’s needed.


This is an edited version of a review for the Economic Society of Australia, available here.The Conversation



Gigi Foster, Professor, School of Economics, UNSW and Paul Frijters, Co-Director, Wellbeing Program, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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One-third of Australians think banks do nothing for the greater public good



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In a survey of 1,000 Australians, 35.4% agreed banking and financial institutions show ‘no leadership for the greater good’.
Shutterstock

Samuel Wilson, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Swinburne University of Technology

The leaders of our banks and financial institutions are seen as the most self-serving in the nation, according to a national survey undertaken by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology.

More than a third (35.4%) of respondents believe banking and financial institutions show “no leadership for the greater good”. This score is slightly worse than public perceptions of the Federal Government, substantially worse than religious institutions and significantly worse than trade unions.

The results, from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 Australians, also repudiate the Australian Banking Association’s claim a year ago that “Australians believe banks are heading in the right direction”.

And given this survey was done in December 2018, before the Banking Royal Commission had completed its work exposing misconduct in the financial services sector, it’s likely a future poll will show even greater community distrust of bankers.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


Transparency and accountability are crucial

Our findings come from the initial results of the Australian Leadership Index, a new quarterly survey from the Swinburne Business School that measures and tracks community perceptions and expectations of leadership for the greater good across 13 societal institutions.

The index won’t be officially published until later in the year. But given the important public discussion about corporate leadership in the wake of the final report of the banking royal commission, we think it’s useful to share a snapshot of our findings.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/fXFqO/1/


Consistent with other studies that highlight the importance of transparency and accountability to perceptions of trust, our research confirms the importance of these attributes to perceptions of leadership for the public good.

From a community perspective, leadership for the greater good occurs when leaders demonstrate high ethical standards, when they demonstrate transparency and accountability for their positive and negative impacts, and when they seek to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders, including the wider community in which their institutions are nested.

So, leadership for the greater good is reflected in what value leaders create, how they create value, and for whom they create value.

Unhappily, banking leaders are found wanting on all counts.

The importance of how value is created

But other institutions are also found wanting, with our results revealing a generalised pessimism about Australian leadership.

Our survey results shed light on where the public think leaders are failing and what the community expects of leaders and their institutions to serve the greater good.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6MnTr/2/


Notably, creating economic value is not a highly regarded aspect of leadership for the greater good. This is not to say it is unimportant. But on its own it is insufficient.

What looms largest in the public mind when thinking about the greater good is the social value that institutions create, how ethically they create this value, and their transparency and accountability for positive and negative impacts.

Our research demonstrates that leadership for the greater good is as much about how leaders create value for their stakeholders — from their employees to their customers to society-at-large — as it is about what value they create and for whom they create value.

It’s not hugely complicated.

And yet, as revealed by the endless, unedifying parade of misconduct in government, business, religious, sporting and other civil society institutions, community standards and expectations are too often observed in the breach.




Read more:
What banking regulators can learn from Deepwater Horizon and other industrial catastrophes


In the wake of the banking royal commission, the Australian community has a golden opportunity for a thoroughgoing discussion about the leadership we need to protect and enhance the public interest.

We hope the Australian Leadership Index will contribute to that discussion, by making all our data freely accessible through a new data visualisation platform. This will enable easy tracking of how institutions are performing according to public perceptions of their impact on the public good.

Wise leaders focus on the greater good. It behoves all leaders to create this new culture of public leadership.The Conversation

Samuel Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Management, Swinburne University of Technology; Jason Pallant, Lecturer of Marketing, Swinburne University of Technology, and Timothy Colin Bednall, Senior Lecturer in Management, Fellow of the APS College of Organisational Psychologists, Swinburne University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

NAB’s Andrew Thorburn and Ken Henry quit after royal commission lashing


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The banking royal commission report has claimed its first high-profile victims, with National Australia Bank’s chief executive officer Andrew Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry quitting their positions.

The two were subject to scathing assessments in the report from
commissioner Kenneth Hayne.

Hayne said that after having heard from both men he was “not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned.

More particularly, I was not persuaded that NAB is willing to accept the necessary responsibility for deciding, for itself, what is the right thing to do, and then having its staff act accordingly. I thought it telling that Dr Henry seemed unwilling to accept any criticism of how the board had dealt with some issues.

I thought it telling that Mr Thorburn treated all issues of fees for no service as nothing more than carelessness combined with system deficiencies … Overall, my fear – that there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice – remains.

In a statement late Thursday, NAB said Thorburn would finish at the end of this month while Henry would leave the board once a new CEO had been appointed.

The board will search internationally for a CEO while also considering internal candidates, the statement said.

Philip Chronican, a NAB director with extensive banking experience
will act as CEO from March 1 until a replacement is found.




Read more:
Defence mechanisms. Why NAB chairman Ken Henry lost his job


It has been speculated that Mike Baird, former NSW premier, a senior executive at NAB could get the CEO post.

Thorburn, who has been CEO since 2005, said he had had a number of
conversations with Henry this week.

“I acknowledge that the bank has sustained damage as a result of its past practices and comments in the royal commission’s final report about them.

“As CEO, I understand accountability. I have always sought to act in the best interests of the bank and customers and I know that I have always acted with integrity. However, I recognise there is a desire for change.”

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Bevan Shields tweeted: “NAB boss Andrew Thorburn effectively says in a call just now that he was sacked by the board and didn’t voluntarily resign”.

Thornburn appeared to be fighting for his job early this week, cancelling leave, but he admitted on Tuesday that he could not guarantee he would still have his position on Friday.

Henry, a former secretary of the federal treasury, said he and the
board had recognised change was needed.

“The timing of my departure will minimise disruption for customers,
employees and shareholders,” he said.

He said the board should have the opportunity to appoint a new chair as NAB “seeks to reset its culture and ensure all decisions are made on behalf of customers.

“I am enormously proud of what the bank has achieved and equally
disappointed about what the royal commission has brought to light in areas where we have not met customer expectations.

“Andrew and I are deeply sorry for this. My decision is not made in
reaction to any specific event, but more broadly looking at the bank’s needs in coming months and years.”

The Board is to recruit new non-executive directors “to increase
diversity of thinking and experience”. It will also establish a board committee for customer outcomes.

Chronican, who joined the NAB board in 2016, said he was “confident in our existing strategy to
transform the bank to be better for customers”.

“Our strategy and the self-assessment we completed into our culture, governance and accountability set out clearly the steps we need to take to change and we are committed to them,” he said.



In a mea culpa interview on Thursday night, Henry told the ABC that what had changed since the indications on Tuesday that he and
Thorburn would stay on was that “we’ve had further time for
reflection.

“And we came to the view jointly really that it was in the best
interests of NAB that we take the decision together to step down from our respective roles.”

He said the enduring legacy of the commission’s report “will be that intense scrutiny that it has shone on financial institutions and the way it’s forced senior people in those organisations to confront some really challenging things”.

Asked whether there was as wide a gap as Hayne said between the public face the NAB sought to present and what was does in practice, Henry said: “There is a big gap.




Read more:
Hayne’s failure to tackle bank structure means that in a decade or so another treasurer will have to call another royal commission


“The gap as I see it is NAB does aspire to do the right thing by every customer every time and everywhere. And we’re a long way from that. We’ve got an absolute mountain to climb in NAB in order to achieve our aspiration for the bank”, although it was on the right path.

“We’ve not been able to satisfy customer expectations, nor community expectations … For that, we’re deeply sorry”.

He and Thorburn hoped their departures would “contribute to the
development of a better industry that’s capable of delivering better outcomes for customers”.

Quizzed about his performance at the commission, which was widely
criticised as looking defensive and contemptuous, Henry said he was initially surprised by that commentary.

“And I was upset by it. The more I thought about it – and I can’t
tell you how many times I’ve relived that appearance – I understand
the criticism. I did not perform well. I really should have performed quite differently. I should have been much more open”.

He said he believed he was leaving NAB in better shape than he found it. “And yet… I also believe that we are not much closer yet to delivering on community expectations. So the gap that was there, that gap still remains. We’ve closed it a bit. We have an intention to close it completely with the investments we’re making and the changes that are under way in the bank.

“That remains the aspiration. I’m confident within a few years,
hopefully much sooner than that, NAB will be a much stronger
institution than when I joined it”.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


The Conversation


Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hayne’s failure to tackle bank structure means that in a decade or so another treasurer will have to call another royal commission


Andrew Linden, RMIT University and Warren Staples, RMIT University

Every 10 to 15 years it’s the same.

Ever since financial deregulation in the 1980s we’ve had a finance industry scandal followed by an inquiry, a quick fix, and a declaration that it shouldn’t happen again.

In the early 1990s there were royal commissions into the A$1.7 billion Tri-continental/ State Bank Victoria collapse, the A$3.1 billion State Bank of South Australia collapse and the WA Inc collapse which explored the interrelated activities at Rothwells bank, the A$1.8 billion collapse of Bond Corporation and the A$1.2 billion siphoned from Bell Resources.

A decade later in 2003 Justice Owen reported on the A$5.3 billion collapse of Australia’s largest insurer HIH.

And now, bang on schedule, we have Kenneth Hayne delivering the final report of a royal commission into systemic misconduct in banking, superannuation and financial services industry to a government that voted 26 times against holding it.

There are two particularly striking things about the 10-15 year cycle.

One is the rhythm of public inquiries followed by reports, then (sometimes) trials, then books, then almost everyone forgetting (except for those personally scarred) only for problems to resurface later.

The other is that the times between have been punctuated by government-commissioned banking and financial system reviews: the 1991 Campbell Inauiry, the 1996 Wallis Inquiry, the 2010 Cooper superannuation review and the 2012 Murray Review . Each either missed or downplayed the links between poor governance, industry structure, systemic misconduct and prudential risk.

Has Kenneth got the frequency right this time?

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s 1000-page final report hasn’t gone far enough to end this cycle.

While his referral of 24 misdeeds for possible criminal and civil prosecution will help in righting past wrongs and perhaps focus the minds of directors and executives, the impact will be generational rather than permanent.




Read more:
Compensation scheme to follow Hayne’s indictment of financial sector


The flurry of prosecutions and actions will again reveal problems with the law – gaps in coverage, inadequate penalties and cases the law won’t allow to stand up.

Taken together the recommendations are a patchwork of measures that if implemented will over time be eaten away – and at some point will be dismantled – because the rationale for their adoption will be forgotten.

Even before they are implemented they will have to run the gauntlet of a massive subterranean lobbying effort from industry to water them down, something Hayne indicated he expected.

The deepest flaw lies unaddressed…

Even though Hayne emphasises the link between systemic misconduct, governance, structure and prudential (system-wide) risk, something that Treasury, the RBA and Australia’s three business regulator amigos, APRA, ASIC and the ACCC, have long rejected, he makes no concrete suggestions to tackle it.

As we have written previously, research tells us big systemically important shareholder-focused universal for-profit banks that cross-sell products are more profitable than smaller banks in the good times but are more prone to misconduct and to failure in the worse times.

Australia’s big four fit the bill – they’re big, they have been vertically integrated one-stop shops, they are very, very profitable and they are very focused on shareholder returns.

While the banks, apart from Westpac, have divested themselves of wealth management and insurance arms for now there is nothing stopping them reacquiring them in the future.

This means we are once again 10 or 15 years away from systemic misconduct resurfacing as big banks seek to become more profitable.

…and putting the onus on directors won’t much help

While heads might roll in yet another round of internal investigations to fix bank culture, it is wise to remember that as Adele Ferguson observed ANZ’s internal investigation of the Opes Prime collapse left the bigger governance lessons “unlearned”.

Directors and senior executives of failed companies continue to live charmed lives.

The directors of Babcock and Brown were cheered as they left the building, while friends and family of the disgraced One.Tel director Jodee Rich have resurfaced at Hayne and other public inquiries.

Some of the One.Tel directors have had long corporate careers. The former chair at of the collapsed Allco Finance Group Bob Mansfield went on to review the ABC.

As Adam Schwab bluntly put it, “corporate Australia is nothing if not forgiving”.

It’ll chase horses rather than close doors

Hayne is persisting with a chasing bolting horses approach to misconduct that relies on detection and enforcement.

We have argued this approach is just not as a effective as other alternatives such as two-tier boards and employee directors which have a better track record of keeping stable doors closed and horses tethered.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


Without them we could very easily have another crisis and another royal commission in 15 to 15 years time.

Ireland has taken a been prepared to change corporate structures. After the meltdown of its financial system triggered by the end of a “classic vanilla property boom” its parliament legislated to appoint public interest directors to the boards of its failed banks.

These changes were designed to ensure banks directors put the public interest first, ahead of shareholders interests and even customers interests.

It’s beyond time we did it here.The Conversation



Andrew Linden, Sessional Lecturer, PhD (Management) Candidate, School of Management, RMIT University and Warren Staples, Senior Lecturer in Management, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Banking Royal Commission: How Hayne failed remote Australia



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The remote community of Urapunga in South East Arnhem Land, more at the mercy of the finance industry than most.
J. Louth, CC BY-SA

Jonathon Louth, University of South Australia

It’s been an enormous year for the financial services industry.

First there was a Productivity Commission report calling for major changes to superannuation, then a Senate inquiry into financial services targeted at Australians at risk of hardship, and now the final report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

And it’s only February.

Yet all three investigations either missed something big or failed to take it sufficiently seriously.

It’s the plight of Australians in remote Indigenous communities.

As if to inoculate himself against such criticism, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne made it clear in his preface that it would have been impossible to hear every case and that inevitably there would be disappointment.

As a consequence, the (relatively privileged) voices that were heard didn’t properly reflect the hardships, vulnerabilities and lives of those far away from the centres of finance, yet increasingly dependent on them as their lives become ever more financialised.

Automatic teller machines

Take the simplest example: ATM fees.

There is not always an understanding within remote Indigenous communities – whether because of language or financial literacy skills – that ATMs attract a A$2.50 fee every time they are used, including to check balances. This often isn’t the case in cities where ATMS are operated by banks.

But in remote locations with only one or two ATMs, they are usually third-party operations, run for profit. It is not uncommon for people waiting for funds to appear in their accounts to check multiple times, draining the account until they find something there.

The only government access point and only phone and only internet service in Urapunga, Northern Territory.
Jonathon Louth, CC BY

While the main report makes generic reference to ATM fees, it is only in the appendices where the question is touched upon.

The Bankers Association is well aware of it.

It conducted a limited two-year trial of free ATMs that concluded at the end of 2017, and was then extended.

It raises a telling question: if there was a recognisable problem and a recognisable solution, why extend the limited trial instead of making it universal?

It is a question about which the Royal Commission was silent.

Superanuation

And then there is super. The Productivity Commission’s earlier 722-page report on super (widely cited in the royal commission report) only twice makes explicit reference to issues faced by Aboriginal people.

This for a product where preservation age for a male is 60 years, yet the average life expectancy for an Indigenous male in the Northern Territory is 63.6.

While it raised the idea of a lower preservation age or releasing superannuation early for medical and associated expenses, the idea was relegated to the appendices.

Yet superannuation is a vital lifeline in remote communities. One Elder in the Northern Territory community of Wadeye made it clear to me that she uses access to super to get their children out of “town”, onto their country and away from social problems.

While the Productivity Commission does note the need to universalise access to hardship payments, it does not acknowledge that the capped amount of A$10,000 is taxed at up to 22%.

Portion control

To Commissioner Hayne’s credit, he urges consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders about making death benefit nominations reflect kinship ties.

It’s an excellent idea – one that would have carried more weight had he made it a formal recommendation.

His recommendations 4.1 and 4.2 are are as bold as they come, calling for a ban on the hawking of insurance policies and for funeral expense policies to be subject to the same rules as insurance policies.


Final Report, Royal Commission into the Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, Vol. 1.


There’s nothing wrong with these recommendations, but they only deal with a small portion of the range of financial abuses that take place in remote communities or when community members visit larger towns and cities.

They include payday lenders offering multiple loans, telephone companies who sell phones they know have no coverage in remote communities, high-interest credit and motor vehicle insurance contracts, charity collectors who sign up community members for monthly donations (taking advantage of cultural notions of reciprocity), expensive furniture and appliance rentals, rent-to-buy schemes and, now, pay later schemes.

Indeed, while I was conducting an interview with an Elder in Wurrumiyanga in the Tiwi Islands, the Elder asked about the text message he received while we were speaking. It was from a payday lender offering immediate access to funds.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


The Senate inquiry is examining some of these exploitative and predatory practices, but the royal commission’s terms of reference appeared to exclude consideration of them.

In the Northern Territory, where 25% of the population identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, they are not so easily excluded.

My research in the NT suggests that financialisation reinforces the systemic disadvantage introduced by white settlement and transmits it across generations.

Any effort to improve financial well-being in remote communities has to take into account the ways in which an imposed economic system has torn at the heart of the one it replaced.

Many of us seem unwilling to accept that an economic world existed prior to European settlement, that (international) trade routes and agriculture were sustained for millennia.

Working through this isn’t simple. It requires spending time with and listening to remote Indigenous communities. Yet as one Elder out past Timber Creek put it:

Government don’t ask, they just tell us. They don’t like to talk to Aboriginal people about what needs to happen, what needs to be done.

This brings us to recommendation 1.8:

Final Report, Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, Vol. 1.

The need to “identify a suitable way for those customers to access and undertake their banking” is vague, but important.

It ought to mean that the financial sector works with communities to develop its cultural competencies. It ought to mean exploring community and cultural literacies and embracing community knowledge.

It ought to mean having financial counsellors – who are Indigenous – trained in and able spending time on communities.

It will need commitment and ongoing funding from both industry and government.

But it’s more of a thought bubble than a worked-through proposal. At best, it’s a start.The Conversation



Jonathon Louth, Research Fellow, The Australian Alliance for Social Enterprise, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shorten: we should legislate on Hayne recommendations before election


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

As Labor seeks to get maximum political mileage from the banking royal commission report, Bill Shorten on Tuesday asked Scott Morrison for extra parliamentary sitting days to pass legislation to implement some of its recommendations.

In a letter to Morrison, Shorten said both houses should be recalled on March 5-7 and March 12-14. The sitting calendar has only 10 sitting days before the election.

“While there are many significant priorities facing the parliament,
there is no more pressing priority than addressing the recommendations of the royal commission,” he said in his letter.

Shorten said it was “deeply regrettable” that the government had not given in-principle agreement to all the commission’s recommendations.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


Both government and opposition have left themselves some wriggle room on the question of implementation, particularly on timing, while seeking to convey the message they are embracing everything
commissioner Kenneth Hayne has recommended.

The government has said it will be “taking action” on all 76
recommendations. But it is not, for example, implementing for the time being the recommendation that the borrower, not the lender, should pay the mortgage broker fee for acting on home lending. It says this could reduce competition.

The opposition says it accepts all recommendations “in principle”.

In his letter Shorten said he noted that “the government has agreed to
some important legislative changes” arising from the commission.

“After taking so long to recognise a royal commission was necessary, Australians will not accept any further delaying tactic from your government,” he said.



“Over the past 24 hours, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has appeared to use the small number of remaining sitting days as an excuse to delay legislative changes. This should not be the case.”

Measures Labor nominates that should be legislated at once include
ending grandfathering commissions for financial advice; prohibiting
hawking of superannuation and insurance; application of unfair
contract terms provisions in the Australian Consumer Law to insurance; and the closing of loopholes to protect consumers, such as removing the exemptions for funeral expenses policies.

But the government, which is now in a minority in the House of
Representatives, is anxious to minimise its exposure in parliament.




Read more:
Compensation scheme to follow Hayne’s indictment of financial sector


Shorten received short shrift, with a government spokesman saying
there was already “legislation in the parliament that deals with a
number of the royal commission’s recommendations and even goes
further, but Bill Shorten and Labor have been fighting it tooth and
nail.”

The legislation the government is referring to includes increased
penalties for white collar crime, and the Protecting Your Super
legislation and increased powers for APRA.

“We won’t be lectured by Bill Shorten who still hasn’t outlined which recommendations Labor would implement,” the spokesman said.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose government finally
called the royal commission after continually rejecting pressure for one, said he regretted it had left it so long. “I think we should have got on with it earlier, ” he said on Tuesday.




Read more:
Six questions our banks need to answer to regain trust


He said “the reason I didn’t support a royal commission and the government didn’t – and that was a collective view of the government, not just mine – was because I could see what the problem was, a failure of responsibility and trust, and I wanted to get on and deal with it immediately.

“I didn’t want to have the delay of the royal commission”.

Frydenberg said he would be speaking to the banks directly “and my
message will be the same privately as it is publicly, that they must do better, that they need to reform, that they need to change the culture within their own organisations and that consumers must come first, second and third.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Six questions our banks need to answer to regain trust



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It is just possible for the banks to regain our trust, but it won’t be easy.
Shutterstock

Nicole Gillespie, The University of Queensland

After today’s Banking Royal Commission’s final report it may seem as if it is impossible for banks to regain trust.

But it is possible, as I know from working with prominent British and European banks after the global financial crisis, taking part in policy meetings at the UK parliament about how to restore trust, and researching cases of trust repair.

Here are the six most important questions our banks will need to answer for their stakeholders to regain trust:

1. What went wrong and why?

When a major breach of trust occurs, it is often unclear what caused it and who is responsible. It is essential to get a shared understanding of what happened.

This can be arrived at through inquiries and investigations which are most effective when timely, comprehensive, and independently conducted.

The royal commission is itself such an inquiry and will help, as did the Parliamentary Commission into Banking Standards in the UK.

But banks also need to conduct their own investigations and explain what happened to their customers and shareholders.

The paradox is that such a “warts and all” investigation is likely to lower trust in the short term as the true extent and scale of the misconduct is revealed.

But without it, it is hard to “draw a line in the sand” and move on.

2. Have the banks learned their lesson and made amends?

Social rituals and symbolic acts – such as apologies, fines, punishments and compensation – play an important role in repairing trust.

They signal that the organisation understands its conduct was wrong and has “paid a price”. They can help resolve negative emotions and restore a sense of equity and justice in the relationship between the organisation and its stakeholders.

Apologies are usually more effective when combined with substantive actions – such as offering compensation – to avoid appearing as “cheap talk”. They are also more effective when offered voluntarily. Unfortunately, Australia’s banks have often been reactive, issuing public apologies only after damning evidence has emerged, and being slow to offer compensation.

3. Can future violations be prevented?

Given what’s been revealed at the royal commission, stakeholders want to see evidence that the banks have “got their house in order” and won’t let it happen again. This will require comprehensive reforms to their strategies, cultures, incentive schemes, and formal control mechanisms (such as revised accountability and governance structures, procedures, rules, policies, and codes of conduct).

4. Is trustworthiness embedded in their DNA?

Banks are typically good at formal controls. The more difficult task is bringing about cultural change. Yet it is absolutely necessary, because cultural values and norms powerfully influence behaviour.

Ensuring that trust-inducing values and decision making are role modelled and embodied by leaders and managers and embedded in everyday routines will require the banks to challenge firmly held beliefs and assumptions that lead them to prioritise short-term profits and returns to shareholders over a more balanced multi-stakeholder perspective grounded in a broader purpose and responsibility to society.

5. Do others believe the banks are trustworthy?

Transparently sharing information about their conduct over time (through for example corporate reporting and monitoring) and having it verified by credible independent third parties (such as auditors) can help restore and maintain trust. It signals the bank has “nothing to hide”.

In the UK, the Banking Standards Board was established to monitor and report on bank conduct and culture.

Its latest report found slow progress had been made on fixing the UK’s poor banking culture five years on from the UK’s equivalent of our royal commission. That is testament to how hard it is to achieve real cultural change.

6. Is the external governance now effective?

Stakeholders need to know that reforms to the governance and regulation of the industry will reward trustworthy conduct, identify and punish misconduct, and root out systematic problems.

This is important for upholding minimal standards of conduct over time.




Read more:
Restructuring alone won’t clean up the banks’ act


The banks will have to convincingly answer each of these questions in order to regain trust. Leaving any one of them unaddressed means it might not happen.

The banks will find the task neither quick nor easy.

It will require time, money, effort, political will, coordination amongst a range of actors and skilled change management, among other things.

Given banks are an essential pillar of a well-functioning society, it is important that they rise to the challenge.

Today’s report will provide an opportunity.


The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.The Conversation

Nicole Gillespie, Professor of Management; KPMG Chair in Organizational Trust, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Compensation scheme to follow Hayne’s indictment of financial sector


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Morrison government has promised to establish a compensation scheme of last resort – paid for by the financial services industry – as it seeks to avoid the outcome of the banking royal commission becoming a damaging election issue for it.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, releasing Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s three-volume report which excoriates the financial sector, said the government would be “taking action” on all 76 recommendations.

The commissioner has made 24 referrals to the regulatory authorities over entities’ conduct in specific instances. All the major banks have been referred except Westpac. AMP, Suncorp, Allianz and Youi are among entities that have been referred.

Commissioner Hayne has made civil and criminal conduct referrals – he was dealing with entities rather than individuals.

In an indictment of years of bad behaviour which has left many customers devastated, Hayne says “there can be no doubt that the primary responsibility for misconduct in the financial services industry lies with the entities concerned and those who managed and controlled those entities”.

“Rewarding misconduct is wrong. Yet incentive, bonus and commission schemes throughout the financial services industry have measured sales and profit, but not compliance with the law and proper standards,” the commissioner says.

“Entities and individuals acted in the ways they did because they could.

“Entities set the terms on which they would deal, consumers often had little detailed knowledge or understanding of the transaction and consumers had next to no power to negotiate the terms.”

Hayne says that “too often, financial services entities that broke the law were not properly held to account.

“The Australian community expects, and is entitled to expect, that if an entity breaks the law and causes damage to customers, it will compensate those affected customers. But the community also expects that financial services entities that break the law will be held to account.”




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission: no commissions, no exemptions, no fees without permission. Hayne gets the government to do a U-turn


The commissioner stresses that “where possible, conflicts of interest and conflicts between duty and interest should be removed” in financial services.

Hayne says that because it was the financial entities, their boards and senior executives, who bore primary responsibility for what had happened, attention must be given to their culture, governance and remuneration practices.

Changes to the law were “necessary protections for consumers against misconduct, to provide adequate redress and to redress asymmetries of power and information between entities and consumers”.

The commission’s multiple recommendations propose:

  • simplifying the law so that its intent is met

  • removing where possible conflicts of interest

  • improving the effectiveness of the regulators, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)

  • driving cultural change in institutions and increasing their accountability

  • increasing protection for consumers from “misconduct or conduct that falls below community standards and expectations”, and providing for remediation.

The government has provided point-by-point responses to the recommendations.

The commission had seven rounds of public hearings with about 130 witnesses, and reviewed more than 10,000 public submissions. It dealt with banking, financial advice, superannuation and insurance.

While there have been claims the fallout from the commission could risk a further tightening of credit for small business in particular, Hayne has been careful in his report to minimise that danger.

But he makes it clear there should be no excuse for avoiding needed action. “Some entities used the undoubted need for care in recommending change as a basis for saying that there should be no change. The ‘Caution’ sign was read as if it said ‘Do Not Enter’.”

The commissioner has some sharp words for the NAB in his report, saying that “having heard from both the CEO Mr Thorburn, and the Chair, Dr Henry, I am not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned.

“More particularly, I was not persuaded that NAB is willing to accept the necessary responsibility for deciding, for itself, what is the right thing to do, and then having its staff act accordingly. I thought it telling that Dr Henry seemed unwilling to accept any criticism of how the board had dealt with some issues.

“I thought it telling that Mr Thorburn treated all issues of fees for no service as nothing more than carelessness combined with system deficiencies […] Overall, my fear – that there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice – remains.”

Among his specific recommendations Hayne says that grandfathering provisions for conflicted remuneration “should be repealed as soon as is reasonably practicable”. The government has said it will do this from January 2021.

Hayne proposes a new oversight authority that would monitor APRA and ASIC.

He lashes ASIC for not cracking down on fees for no service.

“Until this commission was established, ASIC and the relevant entities approached the fees for no service conduct as if it called, at most, for the entity to repay what it had taken, together with some compensation for the client not having had the use of the money.

“That is, the conduct was treated as if it was no more than a series of inadvertent slips brought about by some want of care in record keeping.”

In a number of recommendations about mortgage brokers, Commissioner Hayne says the borrower, not the lender, should pay the mortgage broker fee for acting on home lending. But the government is not accepting the proposal at this time.

In relation to the sale of products the commission recommends the removal of the exclusion of funeral expenses policies from the definition of “financial product”. It should be put “beyond doubt that the consumer protection provisions of the ASIC act apply to funeral expenses policies.”

On superannuation the commission says that “hawking” of superannuation products should be prohibited, and that a person should have only one default account.

In a statement Scott Morrison and Frydenberg said that in outlining its response to the commission “the government’s principal focus is on restoring trust in our financial system and delivering better consumer outcomes, while maintaining the flow of credit and continuing to promote competition.”

They said the government would expand the remit of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) so it could award compensation for successful claims going back a decade.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said that Labor accepted all the recommendations “in principle”.

“The government simply cannot say that they’ve accepted the recommendations … they’ve got weasel words in there about various recommendations,” he said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hayne holds fire, but the banks’ day of reckoning is coming



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Putting people rather than profits at the centre of banking culture is possible, but difficult.
Shutterstock

Andrew Linden, RMIT University and Warren Staples, RMIT University

The evidence presented in the first four rounds of the Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services was harrowing.

It would be a mistake to think the appalling misbehaviour uncovered so easily by the Commission was unconnected, just a few bad apples, as the banks and their supporters had been claiming.

It’s a mistake Commissioner Hayne doesn’t make in his interim report, describing the misconduct as systemic, orchestrated as a matter of corporate policy, and against the law.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission’s damning report: ‘Things are so bad that new laws might not help’


So shocked is he about what he concludes is law-breaking sanctioned at the highest levels that he asks rhetorically whether there would be any point in new laws, given the old ones were often ignored by banks and are not enforced by regulators.

The law already requires entities to “do all things necessary to ensure” that the services they are licensed to provide are provided “efficiently, honestly and fairly”. Much more often than not, the conduct now condemned was contrary to law. Passing some new law to say, again, “Do not do that”, would add an extra layer of legal complexity to an already complex regulatory regime. What would that gain?

He makes no recommendations in his three-volume 1000 page interim report, instead drawing together a long list of questions he intends to answer in his final report, due in February.

Before then, the bank chief executives appearing in the Comission’s final round of hearings will be asked some very tough questions.

No more convivial chats

It won’t be like the convivial chats the bank executives are used to with the heads of regulators, eager to please their ministers in love with financial innovation and the concept of Australia becoming a global financial centre, a new City of London in the East.

Nor will it be like the “I’m sorry, I’ll take that on notice” parliamentary hearings the government arranged a year or two ago in an effort to fend off the Commission.

We’ve always had the evidence

For decades few have thought to ask why Australia’s big banks have been consistently among the world’s most profitable.

Certainly not shareholders who loved the returns and wanted more.

Too many middle and higher level employees were happy to take the bonuses.

Now a new treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, who wasn’t centrally involved in fending off the Royal Commission, appears to have got the message.

Whatever the criticisms are of the regulator, we should remember actually who perpetrated the wrong conduct. And that was the financial institutions themselves. So they are ultimately, and the individuals involved, ultimately the ones who must be held accountable and responsible for their actions. The regulators need to enforce the laws they have at their disposal, impose the penalties that are available to them, and in doing so we are more likely to see a culture of compliance than what we have seen.

Commissioner Hayne has framed the fundamental problem as one of greed overriding respect for the law and respect for customers.

We allowed greed to become good

Hayne asks how that could change.

We have argued with reference to AMP and IOOF that while greed might be an ever present part of the human condition, it can be suppressed or contained.

Greed-induced systemic financial crises were common before the 1940s and after the 1970s, but not during the war or in the decades immediately after the war.




Read more:
Britain’s broken corporate governance regime


The 1980s saw a sea change in attitudes to greed, brought about by financial deregulation and the popularising of the view taught in economics classes that pursuit of individual self interest was in society’s best interest.

Rules, codes and views about what constituted good governance came to be based on a theory that gave a central role to greed, maximising shareholder returns and incentivising managers.

Boards were encouraged to think that putting shareholders first was more important than following directors duties and the law.

Bureaucratically, there was an unrelenting policy preference for self-governance, light touch regulation and cooperation with wrongdoers rather than enforcement.

It’s hard to change

Relying on good character (individual virtue) isn’t enough when corporate structures and policies facilitate systematic misconduct.

It’s impossible to buy organisational culture off the shelf. It is a product of many things.

Changing culture requires more than better professional credentialing, increased financial literacy and embedding regulators inside banks. By themselves, these measures are unlikely to be systemically effective.




Read more:
Trust has to be as important as profit if banks and their boards are to regain their corporate legitimacy


We need to change the rules by which boards operate.

Containing greed requires many, many eyeballs, not just those of shareholders and consumers, but also employees, unions, customer advocacy organisations, regulators and the parliament, as well as clear and well-designed rules, active enforcement, appropriate rewards and strong consequences, and a new shared ethos of prudence, responsibility, honesty, service and fairness.

It is possible, but difficult.The Conversation

Andrew Linden, Sessional Lecturer, PhD (Management) Candidate, School of Management, RMIT University and Warren Staples, Senior Lecturer in Management, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Three simple steps to fix our banks



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It isn’t brain surgery.
Shutterstock

Elise Bant, University of Melbourne

Here are three simple steps to address the widespread misconduct revealed in the interim report of the banking royal commission, arising out of research I have undertaken with my colleague Associate Professor Jeannie Paterson.

While not exhaustive, they are good places to start:

Step 1: back to basics

Commissioner Hayne is spot on when he says that simply adding more regulation is not going to do the job.

In fact, more regulation can be more damaging than helpful.

There are literally dozens of overlapping state and federal statutes that prohibit misleading or deceptive conduct, and they often use subtly but significantly different language and impose different penalties.

This “legislative porridge” splits the regulation of financial services and products in ways that defy rational justification.




Read more:
Banking Royal Commission’s damning report: ‘Things are so bad that new laws might not help’


The result is protracted and cripplingly expensive litigation to determine who is covered by what prohibition.

This plays perfectly into the hands of well-funded corporations who know that delaying tactics and the limited resources of regulators and commercial and consumer are likely to produce soft settlements, “agreed penalties” and no real pressure to change behaviour – all while profits continue to flow in.

So we need to get back to basics. Simple, overarching prohibitions contained in one or two pieces of key legislation, which apply to every trader and corporation who engages in trade or commerce. No exceptions. No carve outs. No special treatment. The same penalties and remedies. Simple, powerful and unavoidable.

Step 2: calling out deceptive conduct

For many years, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has concentrated its relatively meagre litigation efforts on proving “misleading” conduct by corporations. This is probably because it is notoriously difficult to prove the personal dishonesty traditionally required to prove fraud (the “deceptive” part of the prohibition on “misleading or deceptive” conduct).

Part of the problem has been that corporations are artificial persons and so need to operate through directors, managers, employees and agents.




Read more:
Fees for no service: how ASIC is trying to make corporate misconduct hurt


Nailing down instances of individual personal dishonesty, intention and responsibility is often impossible.

Misleading conduct, by contract, is relatively easy to prove, because it focuses on the objective meaning of conduct, does not require proof of fault – and does not require ASIC to identify the personal intentions of individuals behind the conduct.

But, focusing on misleading conduct comes at the cost to effective regulation.

The reputational damage flowing from a finding of misleading conduct is very low.

As Commissioner Hayne has noted, corporations are quick to characterise this sort of conduct as involving “mistakes”, to apologise and to promise reform.




Read more:
Hayne holds fire, but the banks’ day of reckoning is coming


It is time to face the reality that what matters is the behaviour of corporations rather than what is in their (artificial) minds.

It isn’t brain surgery.

As the commissioner himself as noted, you don’t need legal advice to know that “charging for doing what you do not do is dishonest”. Much of the reported conduct “ignores basic standards of honesty”.

A change in focus from personal intention to objective standards of honest conduct is needed to address what the commissioner identifies as “the root causes of conduct, which often lie within the systems, processes and culture cultivated by an entity”.

Step 3: genuine punishment

The final piece of the puzzle (missing from the otherwise incisive discussion in the interim report) is to bring courts on board.

Australian courts have been very cautious in awarding penalties for misleading conduct, and give substantial weight to mitigating factors such as expressions of remorse and cooperation with regulators.

They have said repeatedly that the focus of penalties should be on deterrence rather than punishment.




Read more:
How courts and costs are undermining ASIC and the ACCC’s efforts to police misbehaving banks and businesses


Their approach may be entirely appropriate in cases where courts are dealing with human defendants facing personal ruin. But when applied to corporations, it can undermine the legitimate role of punishment in changing repeated and longstanding corporate misbehaviour.

Again, there are some simple changes to the law that could address this problem.

One is to clarify that punishment is an important aim of the civil penalties regime, required for “public denunciation” of bad behaviour and to provide effective deterrence.




Read more:
The problem with Australia’s banks is one of too much law and too little enforcement


Another is for courts to frame penalties with a strong eye to the profits amassed as a result of the breach. Often the profit earned will be larger than the damage to consumers. Misconduct cannot be allowed to make good financial sense.

Yet another (also not yet on the commission’s radar) is to seriously consider expanding private rights of redress to include additional, punitive damages in cases of serious misconduct.

Not only would this make private claims more feasible for commercial victims. The recent launch of group proceedings by Slater & Gordon shows that, when brought together, private litigants are capable of sharing the regulatory burden of keeping banks on the straight and narrow: it needn’t all be done by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

There are important issues to consider about the strengths and dangers of group litigation, currently the subject of review by the Australian Law Reform Commission.

But if it can be done properly, the deep pockets of banks might well meet their match in well organised teams of lawyers and litigation funders, aggressively seeking justice both in the interests of their clients and for their own financial reward.The Conversation

Elise Bant, Professor of Law, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.