27 Mar 2019

NAB CEO Philip Chronican – Opening Statement House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics

Thank you Chair.

Let me start by acknowledging that as a bank we have let down our customers. We have let down the community and we have let down our people on the frontline who do a great job, day in, day out, serving customers.

And for that, I’m sorry and I apologise to everyone who has been impacted by our failures.

The Final Report of the Royal Commission was right when it said there was a gap between where we are, and where we need to be.

I understand that.

Eight weeks ago, our CEO Andrew Thorburn resigned and our Chairman Ken Henry announced his intention to step down later this year.

As you are aware, I was appointed the interim CEO on March 1. Since then our focus at NAB has been on fixing the problems in our bank that have hurt our customers and caused concern to the broader community.

The Royal Commission was our wake-up call and it’s challenging us deeply in how we respond.

The Royal Commission was about much more than the 76 individual recommendations contained in the final report. It has forced us to confront broader issues of how we treat customers, and the accountability, governance and culture inside the bank.

We are asking our customers and the community to judge us by the actions that we take to fix these issues.

NAB’s internal reform program is bringing greater rigour, discipline and a stronger focus on customers.

This includes greater Board oversight of customer outcomes and holding executives accountable for their performance on financial and customer metrics, as well as the management of non-financial risks.

Of the Final Report’s 76 recommendations, we agree with 72 and will work with the Government and regulators on giving effect to the intent of the remaining four.  We have taken action, or are in the process of taking action, on 26 of the recommendations.

Changes were made at NAB ahead of the release of the Final Report, including:

  • announcing that we will not charge default interest to agricultural customers impacted by the drought;
  • announcing a Board Customer Committee to better oversee NAB’s processes and to ensure fair products and service outcomes and to evaluate customer feedback and complaints, and;
  • removing grandfathered commissions for NAB Financial Planning advisors.

We are also putting things right where we have wrongly charged our customers fees. We have about 350 people – and will soon have about 500 –  working on making sure our customers are compensated as quickly as possible. Since June, we have repaid $110 million to 310,000 customers.

Earlier this month we said that we would extend the protections of the Code of Banking Practice to small businesses with less than $5 million in total borrowings – up from less than $3 million.

NAB has also formally adopted a model litigant policy which is based on the Commonwealth’s Model Litigant Policy.  NAB recognises there is sometimes an imbalance of resources between it and its customers. This policy commits us to act honestly, consistently and fairly and that we will not take advantage of any imbalance.

Last week I was in Albury where we pledged to keep our 316 NAB branches in regional and rural Australia open until at least January 2021. Regional and rural communities are facing serious challenges of their own and it’s an important role for banks to be there for them.

Earlier this week we announced we will abolish the NAB ‘Introducer’ payment program. We want customers to be referred to us for the features of our products and the quality of our service, not because someone is going to be paid a fee to recommend us.

On the issue of remuneration and incentives, we know we need change to get the best outcomes for customers and to meet community expectations – and we are changing.

These actions are just the start. There is a lot more to do – and that we must do – to build a bank that our customers, our employees and the community deserve.

At the same time NAB will remain well and truly open for business.

Economic trends globally have generally softened and in Australia, we saw a significant decline in growth in the second half of 2018.

As we tackle the necessary reforms, we will not lose sight of our role in supporting customers, creating jobs and building confidence.

NAB lends more to small and medium business than any other Australian bank. We lend almost $3 billion each month to this important sector and we are growing our lending at more than twice the rate of our major bank peers.

I met with the bank’s top 100 leaders in Melbourne on Monday and emphasised to them that NAB stands ready to lend to good quality propositions for both businesses and home buyers.

We are going to keep investing in Australia because that’s where our core business is. We are going to invest in Australian businesses because that’s where Australia is going to get its economic growth from.

Customers need banks to back them. And that’s our purpose.

And so I am here today to take full ownership of the bank’s current situation and set out what we are doing to change.

Our Chief Financial Officer Gary Lennon and I look forward to your questions.

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