Westpac has acknowledged a “trust gap” has opened up between banks and customers, during its appearance before a parliamentary inquiry.
- Westpac is the last of the big four banks to face the inquiry
- Chief executive Brian Hartzer apologised for “operational errors”
- 22 financial planners left or were sacked over dodgy advice
The bank is the last of the big four to face the committee, and so far all have issued apologies but rejected the assertion they have a widespread cultural problem within their institutions.
Westpac has faced questions over issues such as a ruling from the corporate regulator, ASIC, that the bank was increasing customers’ credit limits without properly establishing clients could afford it.
Chief executive Brian Hartzer said Westpac was not perfect.
“In recent years, we’ve had operational errors and we apologise for those,” he said.
“We’ve made some difficult decisions on pricing and at times we haven’t done a good job of communicating why we’ve made those decisions.
“We are working hard to improve.”
Mr Hartzer confirmed 22 financial planners had left or been sacked over recent years over concerns they may be providing dodgy financial advice.
“Every single one of those has been reported to ASIC and in our view none of them should be in the industry,” he said.
He said the bank had written to the planners’ clients and made the necessary reviews.
Mr Hartzer also defended the bank’s use of league tables to measure staff performance.
He said staff were not only measured based on the number of products sold, but on the quality of the customer service they provided.
“We do not condone trying to sell products to people that they don’t need,” he said.
“On the other hand, we’re unashamed about the fact that it’s a competitive market and, yes, if somebody has their mortgage somewhere else then we’d like to see if we could give them a better deal and switch them to us.
“We make no apology for that.”
When asked about the need for a tribunal in the industry, Mr Hartzer said he did not have a strong view either way.
He said he was concerned about making things too prescriptive, but could see the importance of looking into the issue to ensure customers were not falling through the cracks.
“If the answer is a tribunal, so be it,” he said.