humble comment

The banking royal commission – some comments by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne – 4 February 2019

The responses and recommendations made in [the final] report will attract varied responses. Those who oppose change will appeal to real or supposed difficulty in altering present arrangements. Reference will be made to change bringing ‘unintended consequences’. That argument is easily made because it has no content; the ‘consequences’ feared are not identified.

But choices must now be made. The arrangements of the past have allowed conduct of the kinds and extent described here and in the interim report of the commission. The damage done by that conduct to individuals and to the overall health and reputation of the financial services industry has been large. Saying sorry and promising not to do it again has not prevented recurrence. The time has come to decide what is to be done in response to what has happened. The financial services industry is too important to the economy of the nation to allow what has happened in the past to continue or to happen again.

Everything that is said in [the final] report is to be understood in the light of that one undeniable fact: it is those who engaged in misconduct who are responsible for what they did and for the consequences that followed.

Industry codes are expressed as promises made by industry participants. If industry codes are to be more than public relations puffs, the promises made must be made seriously.

Too little attention has been given to the evident connections between compensation, incentive and remuneration practices and regulatory, compliance and conduct risks. The very large reputational consequences that are now seen in the Australian financial services industry, especially in the banking industry, stand as the clearest demonstration of the pressing urgency for dealing with these issues.