Shane Wright Economics Editor The West Australian August 10, 2012
Economic factors rather than a systemic approach to attack customers were behind many of the complaints made against Bankwest, the financial institution has told a Senate inquiry.
Bankwest managing director Rob De Luca this afternoon rejected suggestions the bank had deliberately ripped the carpet from under the feet of clients in a bid to protect its bottom line ahead of its sale to the Commonwealth Bank.
The inquiry is looking into the post-Global Financial Crisis landscape for the banking sector.
However, it has been inundated with complaints by former Bankwest customers about the institution's operations from 2008.
Customers have claimed they were put into default by Bankwest, partly in a bid to reduce the price that would ultimately be paid for it by the Commonwealth.
But Mr De Luca said the complaints amounted to less than 0.1 per cent of Bankwest's total customer base.
He said suggestions that Bankwest had a financial interest in defaulting customers made no sense as it would undermine the bank's own financial base.
According to Mr De Luca, most of the complaints had come out people in the commercial property development sector which was the worst affected by the Global Financial Crisis.
"As we know sometimes difficulties do arise, and it is in the bank's interest to assist customers if that occurs," he said.
"We maintain that the cause of the difficulties arose from a combination of economic factors, not through any inappropriate action of the bank.
"The GFC was an unforseen and unwelcome event for the bank and its customers alike."
Earlier today, former Bankwest customer James Neale said some of the actions of the Commonwealth had been "criminal".
The inquiry is continuing.