June 10, 2020 / 7:55 AM / 22 days ago

Australia's NAB flags compulsory banker education program for staff

SYDNEY, June 10 (Reuters) - National Australia Bank’s (NAB) will ask its 34,000 staff to enroll in an education program to lift professional standards, CEO Ross McEwan said on Wednesday as part of a campaign to rebuild trust in the country’s third largest lender.

Appointed in July last year, McEwan was tasked with improving NAB’s image after a government-led inquiry in 2018 uncovered widespread misconduct in the banking sector, and singled out NAB’s management for criticism.

“It’s time to raise the bar in banking professionalism and NAB will lead the way,” McEwan said in a statement.

NAB is developing the curriculum with the Financial Services Institute of Australasia (FINSIA), and the 60-hour education programme should commence in October, a spokeswoman said.

FINSIA has partnered with the United Kingdom’s Chartered Banker Institute as the awarding body for the qualifications, it said in a separate statement.

The programme would cover banking fundamentals as well as skills that McEwan said would support customers “in good times and tough times, which will be needed in a post COVID-19 world”.

“FINSIA welcomes the decision made by NAB to be the first of the major Australian Banks to make this investment in their people so they can be the best in their jobs,” FINSIA chief executive Chris Whitehead said in the statement.

Two years ago, a Royal Commission inquiry had found banks and other large financial institutions put profits above all else, leading to poor outcomes for customers.

Its findings led to banks setting aside over A$6 billion to compensate customers that had been overcharged for financial products or charged fees without receiving any services.

The commission criticised NAB’s management for its unwillingness to accept responsibility, which led to the early departures of its previous chief executive officer and chairman.

New Zealand national McEwan, was credited with turning around the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), where he introduced similar professional banking qualifications for staff. (Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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