ANZ loosens credit criteria to ‘sensible equilibrium’


Mr Elliott also acknowledged the availability of credit in his opening remarks to the committee, which will hear from National Australia Bank acting chief executive Phil Chronican this afternoon.

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“Higher standards, based in the law, do apply, and some will find it harder to borrow than before. Our challenge is finding the right balance of prudence and availability within the regulatory framework,” Mr Elliott said.

“After a period of perhaps being too cautious, ANZ is easing back towards a sensible equilibrium. If we are to serve society, we must support the economy by lending responsibly, and that is what we’re aiming to do.”

Mr Elliott said the bank was “ready to lend,” especially for housing and small business.

Earlier this month, ANZ loosened some of the clamps it had put on interest-only lending in 2017, after the bank’s housing investor loan book shrank in 2018.

Mr Elliott and deputy chief executive Alexis George also faced a series of questions on the royal commission, a process that Mr Elliott described as “humbling and confronting.”

After a period of perhaps being too cautious, ANZ is easing back towards a sensible equilibrium. If we are to serve society, we must support the economy by lending responsibly.

ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott

Mr Elliott said the commission’s scrutiny, and the parliamentary committee into banks, had prompted the bank to re-examine past conduct, which had led to a sharp increase in its remediation costs.

“It would be a meaningful increase, it would have more than doubled,” Mr Elliott said.

The committee’s deputy chair, Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite, repeatedly questioned Mr Elliott over why none of the banks had been prosecuted for the industry-wide fees-for-no-service scandal, which was a key focus of the royal commission.

Mr Elliott acknowledged the royal commission’s concern, and said it had raised questions about whether there was “intent” in the scandal, or whether it was “malicious.” But decisions about prosecutions were a matter for ASIC, he said.

‘Awareness issue’

In his opening statement, Mr Elliott outlined four steps the bank was taking to deal with problems uncovered by the royal commission. These were: compensating customers; holding people to account including by cutting pay; changes to the bank’s policies; and trying to resolve customer complaints.

ANZ, like its rivals, has also experienced a sharp increase in disputes at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, which opened in late 2018 after several ombudsman schemes were merged.

“I believe that is largely an awareness issue,” Mr Elliott said, pointing to the publicity around the formation of AFCA, and the royal commission’s scrutiny of banks.

Clancy Yeates is a business reporter.

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