After a string of scandals which have led to a major shareholder class action, CBA executives have finally taken responsibility for the bank’s failures and apologised to those affected.
The world began to spin when the news came through. No it wasn’t caused by climate change. Nor was it the result of the marriage equality vote. It was the fact that Australian bankers actually apologised for poor conduct.
At its annual general meeting (AGM), Commonwealth Bank chair Catherine Livingstone and outgoing CEO Ian Narev both apologised to shareholders for the spate of recent scandals, which they attributed to a “deficiency” in compliance.
“Those matters have generated adverse perceptions of the Commonwealth Bank’s culture and trustworthiness, qualities which are vital for its ongoing success,” Ms Livingstone said.
Speaking on the legal proceedings launched against the bank for repeated breaches of anti-money laundering rules, she insisted that “the board is treating them with the gravity they warrant.”
“It is clear that the bank was deficient in aspects of its compliance with AUSTRAC’s regulations, and it is equally clear that this has damaged our reputation: with customers, shareholders, regulators and government,” said Ms Livingstone.
“As chairman, and on behalf of the board, I apologise sincerely for this deficiency and its consequence.”
Similary Mr Narev who, after the board docked his bonuses over the string of scandals, announced that he would stand down next year, issued an apology for the “distress” these failures had caused customers.
“The products and services we provide are fundamental to people’s wellbeing. So, when we get it wrong, we can cause significant distress. When we do, it is of no comfort to the affected customers that they are in a minority, that the experience of the vast majority of others has been good,” he said.
“At times, in our dealings with these customers, we have listened poorly, and been too bureaucratic. As chief executive, I take responsibility for that and I apologise for the distress we have caused.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.