ANZ Bank chief Shayne Elliott says the bank has nothing to hide from a royal commission, which should address public frustration over banks' behaviour by holding the industry to account.
In his first detailed public comments on the powerful inquiry, Mr Elliott said he understood why bank critics had demanded the probe, but that he believed it could help "cauterise" the bitter public debate about the sector.
Separately, he also flagged that ANZ would also be taking a more active role in public debate in wider issues including housing affordability, environmental concerns, and financial well-being. Ahead of the bank's annual general meeting this week, he revealed the bank had already dropped some customers that did not "share our values," as part of this new push.
Mr Elliott said in a podcast released on Sunday night that ANZ was prepared to be accountable for what it had done, when the royal commission led by Kenneth Hayne kicks off next year.
"I think the demands for a royal commission are understandable," Mr Elliott said in The ANZ Way, a podcast produced by the bank.
"Look, we personally don’t think a royal commission is necessary, we’ve had lots of inquiries and things. We would rather just get on with fixing things. But we understand there’s that community kind of desire.”
“So we said, look we don’t have anything to hide."
The political debate about banks had been doing "harm" to the industry, he said, and "we felt it was better to just cauterise this thing and move on.”
Mr Elliott conceded the risk for banks from royal commissions was "high" because they can go in "all sorts of directions." But he added: "We are prepared to be accountable for what we’ve done in the past, and what we’re doing now and in the future.”
Potential areas where ANZ may face royal commission scrutiny include its treatment of some rural customers, and its links to collapsed rural investment scheme Timbercorp.
Mr Elliott made the comments in an interview with broadcaster Sally Warhaft, as he also signalled the bank would be taking a stronger public position on "causes" where it believed it could have a credible voice. The three areas were the environment, housing and financial well-being.
Mr Elliott framed the pursuit of these causes as part a push to build "social support," saying that merely having a "social licence" to operate was not enough to ensure the bank's success.
Environmental groups and some investors have pressured banks to cut their exposure to carbon-intensive businesses, and Mr Elliott admitted that "perhaps we've been a bit slow" in changing in this area.
Mr Elliott did not specify how the bank's environmental policies may change, but said it would work with customers that made large impacts on the environment.
It would explain to them the costs of their actions, use "incentives" to change its clients' behaviour.
On housing, Mr Elliott signalled the bank would take a public stance in debates and express its view on issues spanning affordability, town planning and how to promote liveable cities. It had already hired experts in some of these areas and was keen to "shape the future debate on housing," he said.
ANZ was also working with property developers and government to look at other models for providing affordable hosing, such as corporate-backed large-scale rental properties, he said.
The bank's push to take up these causes up had been in train for several years, and it was not a response to the royal commission, he said.
“The timing I guess is unfortunate for the cynics, who will believe it’s all part of some conspiracy, but the reality is this is about fundamental change for the long term.”
He said the bank had already dropped some customers that did not live up to its values, though he did not specify which values, or the customers that had been dumped.
“We have been making real decisions about that, changing who we bank, exiting customers.. that we don’t feel share our values around this,” he said.This article was forst published by http://www.smh.com.au Clancy Yeates