Prosecutions of senior banking figures are required if the industry is to shake off recent scandals and leave behind the taint of the banking royal commission, investigative journalist Adele Ferguson has warned.
Ms Ferguson told a Sydney Morning Herald subscriber event in August that fines or prosecutions of junior staff would not provide the necessary deterrent to prevent a repeat of the misconduct that spurred the Hayne inquiry.
"I hope things do change but I'm not convinced. There needs to be heads on sticks at the top levels of these organisations so that fear overrides greed," she said.
Former Senator John "Wacka" Williams told the event that the prosecutions would take several years to work through the justice system and urged patience.
He said he had faith that some executives would go to jail by the time that process was completed.
Ms Ferguson told the event that she had battled smear campaigns and even impersonators as she reported several significant scandals at the big banks over recent years.
The multiple Walkley Award-winning journalist said she also believed that major fund managers now understood that poor culture and mistreatment of customers could materially affect their investments in companies.
The CommInsure scandal, she said, was a tipping point for investors who then saw that issues in the banking sector were systemic.
Commonwealth Bank whistleblower Jeff Morris told the audience that taking on the bank had taken a heavy toll on him and his family.
There needs to be heads on sticks at the top levels of these organisations so that fear overrides greed.
Mr Morris said he had attended a recent event for whistleblowers and that many of them suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He had counselled many whistleblowers in recent years and when he explained the toll it would take on them they often said: "I can't do that."
He estimated only one in every 100 would act on their concerns once they were aware of the potential downsides.
"That means we are deprived of the benefit of those ninety-nine disclosures," he said.
Adele Ferguson’s book Banking Bad is available here.