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Cultural sea change at banks sees scores enrol on FINSIA's professional courses

by Lewis Panther | 28 Sep 2018
Dozens of NAB bankers are on FINSIA’s professionalism pathway as part of our roll-out of practical training for the industry. 500 Cultural sea change at banks sees scores enrol on FINSIA's professional courses - FINSIA InFinance
 
Up to 40 staff at the Big Four bank have enrolled on the Professional Banking Fundamentals course which is the first step towards top level Chartered Banker status.
 
The news comes in the week that we announced a full-suite of banking qualifications, including Certified Professional Banker - which is aimed at mid-level executives and above. 
 
It is is clear a cultural sea change is happening at the banks as the Royal Commission interim report noted when it was made public. 

But Commissioner Kenneth Hayne still made a withering attack on the banks saying the reason for public condemnation was “greed” and “the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. 

“How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?

“Banks, and all financial services entities recognised that they sold services and products. Selling became their focus of attention. 

“Too often it became the sole focus of attention. Products and services multiplied. Banks searched for their ‘share of the customer’s wallet’. From the executive suite to the front line, staff were measured and rewarded by reference to profit and sales.”

Even before, the release of the report that came after months of hearings banks were charging selling policies and culture.

Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer gave three-hour briefings to all 40,000 bankers on the eve of the Royal Commission’s first set of recommendations telling front line staff to highlight customer problems.
 
He said that the bank's "relentless focus on being a service business, not a product business, is not only key to our success but it also means we have an incredible responsibility to get things right for our customers".
 
That is already the focus of FINSIA whose CEO Chris Whitehead who was interviewed by the Australian Financial Review in a special two-page report on Raising Professional Standards.
 
Many of the ethical and moral failings highlighted in the Royal Commission could be overcome by adopting professionalism for the banking sector, he said.
 
“I have no doubt that, if we’d embarked on this journey earlier we would have had a significantly different culture in the industry,” he said, speaking about the launch of FINSIA suite of qualifications .
 
“It would mean a lot more challenge to some of the poor practices, a lot more commitment to avoiding customer disadvantage but also that, when it does occur – and sometimes it occurs not intentionally – a much greater commitment to quick restoration or quick remediation of issues.”
 
The path of professionalisation and the creation of professional standards and code of conduct drives better customer outcomes, ensuring “bad apples being eliminated from the industry more quickly.” 
 
David Gall, chief risk officer at NAB and FINSIA chairman, also revealed he will be enrolling on the Chartered Banker program in part to set an example for others in the industry.
 
“I strongly believe in professionalisation of the industry and I think Chartered Banker is a way of demonstrating that you are a professional banker and stand for professionalism in the industry more broadly,” he said.
 
“What does that all mean? Well, in my mind, there will be better customer outcomes if the competency and capability of bankers is stronger and more consistent.”
 
He says Chartered Banker and professionalisation are complimentary to regulation, but if the industry broadly adopts professionalism there will be less need for regulation. 
 
“From my perspective, it’s not about more regulation. This is actually about individuals in the industry actually helping the industry re-establish trust and confidence,” he says.
 
The standards required from Chartered Bankers will be higher than those required by regulation, Gall says.
 
“This is not about what’s legal or illegal. This is actually about what we can create. What will help us as an industry create excellent customer outcomes? How do you think about the outcomes for customers rather than just complying for regulation? It’s a standard that is higher,” he says.
 
Along with the conduct requirement, Chartered Banker will also require core competencies in banking and ongoing learning.
 
Conduct and competency go hand-in-hand, according to Whitehead.
 
“People want to do the right thing but aren’t competent, don’t have the right skills and knowledge, they’re perhaps more dangerous than someone who at least has the skills and knowledge and knows what it is they’re doing,” he says.
 
Marnie Baker, managing director, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, welcomed the introduction of the Chartered Banker designation.
 
“At a time when community expectations are under the microscope, we welcome any initiative that helps to raise professional standards in our industry,” she says.



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