SYDNEY, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fired over 200 staff for wrongdoing, including senior executives, due in part to issues raised at a public inquiry into financial sector misconduct, ANZ Chief Executive Shayne Elliott said on Friday.
In his first public comments addressing criticism stemming from the quasi-judicial inquiry, Elliott said the country’s third-biggest bank would take a tougher approach to punishing bad conduct.
“We should dismiss people when they are grossly negligent or when they do things that are clearly bad and cause customer harm,” Elliott told parliament’s House Economics Committee.
“My commitment is to make sure that I do hold people to account.”
In the past year, about 10 senior ANZ executives had been dismissed for issues related to misconduct, Elliott said.
The comments reflect the pressure Australia’s highly profitable major banks are under to improve their governance and public image since the inquiry, called a Royal Commission, exposed widespread misconduct across the financial sector.
The heads of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp were also apologetic before the committee on Thursday, in contrast to the industry’s defiant tone before the inquiry began in February.
ANZ said on Monday it would take a A$711 million ($506.59 million) hit to profit due to higher costs including compensation for customers stung by poor bank practices. The bank’s full-year results are due Oct. 31.
Other banks and wealth managers are setting aside cash to restructure their businesses, defend lawsuits and compensate customers, while bracing for tougher regulation and tighter profit margins.
The year-long Royal Commission has received over 9,000 submissions by aggrieved customers and scrutinised a handful of specific cases that have shocked the country.
In almost 60 public hearings, the inquiry has exposed systemic problems in incentive arrangements used to reward staff for selling products to people who did not need them or could not afford them. All four major banks also charged customers for services-not-rendered and some took fees out of dead client accounts.
Elliott said he had ordered a review of how ANZ had treated a number of customers mentioned at the inquiry. ($1 = 1.4033 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Paulina Duran in SYDNEY; Editing by Stephen Coates)