BENDIGO and Adelaide Bank managing director Mike Hirst believes the bank can continue to thrive in an environment in which public trust in some of its biggest competitors continues to nose dive.
But he remained critical of Labor’s commitment to a banking royal commission – a scenario that has become increasingly likely in the past week after the High Court’s ruling against Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Hirst said executive salaries and the “perception” that big business was not paying its fair share of tax were the two issues impacting public trust in banks and other big businesses.
In his address to the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank annual general meeting on Tuesday, Mr Hirst said these perceptions were being amplified by politicians and the media.
“While individual bank customer satisfactions ratings are at historically high levels, there is the conundrum that the industry is perceived as being greedy and untrustworthy,” he said.
“This perception is fed to politicians who then play it back to the public through a supportive media to whip up even more angst. It’s almost perpetual motion personified.”
Mr Hirst described regulation as being “rained down” on the banking industry in recent years, further exemplified by Labor’s calls for a banking royal commission.
Falling confidence in the sector as a whole could provide some positives for the bank, however.
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank maintained the highest trust rating of all the listed banks and the highest customer satisfaction.
Mr Hirst said the Community Bank model was central to this positive perception.
“We have built a reputation as being a bank that does the right thing. Sometimes we unintentionally stuff up, but our motivation to do the right thing is strong,” he said.
The bank reported an exit margin of 2.34 per cent and net profit of $430 million.
The bank celebrated 10 years since its merger with Adelaide Bank, and reflected on 10 years since the global financial crisis – an event which chairman Robert Johanson believes started the current downward trend in trust in the banking sector.
Mr Johanson said the merger set the bank up for its continued financial success.
“The global financial crisis meant (the merger) had to be done under great stress, and very quickly,” he said.
“Ten years later I can say that without the merger, we would not have an organisation with the capacity or potential that we have today.”
Shareholders questioned the board of directors on its future areas of growth, whether there was enough emphasis placed on growth, whether the bank was exposed to Murray Goulburn Co-operative, and the 10-minute waiting time at call centres.
Mr Hirst said the performance of its call centres – one of which is based in Bendigo – had been unsatisfactory.
“We implemented some new technology during the year that took some time to settle in that interrupted performance in that area, so I think we’ve got that under control now,” he said.
“We certainly didn’t perform to the level that we should have with our call centre during year.”