“We’ve had a great association with the Wallabies over the past six years. And it’s just really that point in our cycle, if you will, where we’re looking to diversify or review, if you like, our branding assets, of which the Wallabies was a very important one,” Mr McNamara told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The bank will continue sponsoring rugby’s Sydney 7s and Mr McNamara said the decision had “certainly nothing at all to do” with the controversy surrounding ex-Wallaby Israel Folau, who is in a legal battle with Rugby Australia.
“We can see how people could be trying to join some of that, but in our case, as I say six years, it’s been a really good sponsorship for us, it’s just re-balancing the branding that we actually have with partners and that’s all it is. It’s certainly nothing at all to do with the Folau issue,” Mr McNamara said.
Rugby Australia said it was in the market for a new banking partner and it had received a “very positive” response from talks with the industry so far. “Rugby Australia has been aware of HSBC’s decision for some time and thanks HSBC for its support of the Qantas Wallabies for the past six years,” a spokesman said.
Qantas is also in discussions over its naming rights sponsorship of the Wallabies, which expires at the end of this year. A source close to the talks who did not want to be named because they were not authorised to speak publicly said discussions were well-advanced.
The change comes after HSBC recently endorsed a new strategic plan for its Australia business, and Mr McNamara said it was aiming to expand its retail banking and wealth operations as a “challenger brand”.
He said the bank had grown in home loans by about 33 per cent in the year to September, due in part to it re-entering the mortgage broker market.
He also indicated the scrutiny of the major banks, including through the royal commission, also meant consumers were potentially more open to banking outside the big four.
“It’s probably reasonable to say I think that consumers now, given the light of media attention on the banking system here, probably would consider optionality more than they might have beforehand,” he said.
After Westpac was rocked by a money-laundering compliance scandal in the past couple of weeks, Mr McNamara acknowledged the lasting impact on HSBC of a 2012 laundering scandal, in which the bank paid a $US1.9 billion fine to settle allegations of failings in its anti-money laundering systems. He said the scandal led to an “extended period” of internal focus for the bank.