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Banks stress royal commission progress

Banks insist they are already well on the way to making changes that will help convince Australians to trust them again.

The Australian Banking Association made the assurance after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg committed to overhauling the financial services sector by the end of next year.

The damning banking royal commission led by Kenneth Hayne produced 76 recommendations for reform including 54 for government, 12 for regulators and 10 for industry.

Mr Frydenberg said more than 20 changes will be made or introduced to parliament by the end of the year, with all recommendations acted on before 2020 comes to a close.

The ABA has embraced the timetable but says banks have already made headway on the eight recommendations Commissioner Hayne directed at them when he released his final report in February.

He suggested six changes to the Banking Code, five of which are on track to be fully implemented by March 2020.

Part of the sixth change has been made, with the code now defining a small business as having fewer than 100 workers.

Commissioner Hayne also wanted the financial threshold for defining a small business raised from $3 million to $5 million, a change subject to a review by regulator ASIC which is due to wrap up in early 2021.

ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said many banks have already conducted reviews into their culture and are continuing to look at how they remunerate staff.

But the banks also know they need to do more than just what Commissioner Hayne has asked of them.

“Effective cultural change is not going to come about through implementing the royal commission recommendations alone,” she said.

The peak group of Australia’s industry super funds has also embraced Mr Frydenberg’s “ambitious” plan for legislative change, but hopes he doesn’t forget other key reforms the superannuation industry needs.

“We urge the government not to lose sight of the other challenges such as chronic underperformance and the fact that one in three workers are not even getting paid super,” Industry Super Australia chief executive Bernie Dean said.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers has been less glowing about the coalition’s plans, accusing the treasurer of dragging his feet in responding to the royal commission.

“They are only reluctantly and belatedly responding to the shocking issues that have been raised,” he said.

Parliament’s economics committee has also confirmed it will next grill the heads of Australia’s big four banks on November 8 and 15.

The top brass of the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac are regularly hauled before MPs for scrutiny.

“Given the widespread misconduct across the financial services sector identified by the Hayne royal commission, it is important that financial institutions are held accountable,” committee chair Tim Wilson said.

Australian Associated Press

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