Australia needs best alarm system on the street: NAB CEO addresses ABA Conference

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NAB CEO Andrew Irvine has joined ABA CEO Anna Bligh and Managing Director of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Marnie Baker in a panel discussion on Day 1 of the annual ABA Banking Conference.

Hosted for the first time in Melbourne, the following excerpts from the discussion highlight how the industry is responding to key issues including housing, cost-of-living, and scams and fraud.

Australia remains the lucky country

“I’ve had the pleasure of living in Asia, Europe and North America and we should never forget how fortunate we are living in Australia,” Mr Irvine said.

“Even though times today are challenging – the resources that we have, the beautiful country we live in is safe, and we have good, quality institutions. There are very few countries in the world doing better than we are right now.”

Averages don’t tell the full story

When asked about how Australians are faring in the face of cost-of-living challenges, Mr Irvine said the averages don’t tell the full story.

“The averages are a composite of a very diverse country. I was in WA three weeks ago and the economy there is growing at around 6%,” Mr Irvine said.

“You go to Queensland too and you have an economy that’s growing with significant migration from both overseas and within Australia. They’re also building infrastructure for the Olympic games.

“Then you’ve got southeast Australia, Victoria in particular, that’s doing it tougher.”

The majority of households are getting by

Despite economic challenges, Mr Irvine said customers are proving resilient.

“The good news is people have jobs. We’ve still got really low levels of unemployment and as a result the vast majority of households and customers are getting by,” he said.

“They’re budgeting, they’re having to make decisions. They’re not enjoying it, but they’re getting by.”

Mr Irvine said arrears in the banking sector are still incredibly low.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t hardship out there. If you’re struggling, call us, because the sooner we know, the more we can work together to help you.”

Many businesses are doing well

Mr Irvine said this shift in consumer behaviour had impacted some sectors of the economy.

“Yesterday I met with a business customer who said their rent had gone up 33% in the last two years,” Mr Irvine said.

“There are many businesses doing really well, but there are sectors of the economy struggling. I think businesses that are more focused on discretionary income are doing it tougher.

“How you’re doing as a small business depends very significantly on the business you have, the location you’re in and how you’re looking after your customers.”

Australia needs to be the best alarm system on the street

Mr Irvine described scams and fraud as the scourge of our times.

“Unfortunately, I do feel that criminals are going to continue to get more complex and capabilities like AI are going to increase the sophistication of attacks.

“We have and will continue to work hard as an industry whilst educating Australians to protect themselves.”

Despite these challenges, Mr Irvine said there is some light in the battle against scammers.

“Australia is one of the few economies in the world today – we’ve got to remember this – where scam and fraud losses are falling,” Mr Irvine said.

“That’s really encouraging because scammers go where the money is. You want to be the best alarm system on the street.”

Mr Irvine said government, banks and telcos have done a good job rallying around the cause to protect Australians.

“Most Australians have become more scam aware, and that’s a good thing.

“NAB is also focused on adding more friction into payment processes to protect customers.

“For example, in some cases if we’re seeing someone sending a payment somewhere they haven’t before, we’re asking, ‘are you sure?’ and are looking at biometrics like keystrokes and how they use their phone. And if it’s different than what we’ve seen you doing in the past, our intelligence will kick in.”

Housing: a supply-side issue

Mr Irvine described housing as one of the biggest policy issues facing our country.

“While there is a demand-side problem, I think the bigger issue is supply-side in this country,” Mr Irvine said.

“We really need to think about new types of dwellings to house people.

“There’s a plethora of things that need to be addressed. From planning permissions, to taxation, to new methods of housing and modularisation, to more innovation around footprints.

“There is a massive amount of work that needs to happen.”

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