Industry and government can no longer dodge issues highlighted by banking royal commission

The royal commission report is a unique opportunity for customers to expect significant changes of financial instutions, which are on notice to respond, says Professor Pamela Hanrahan of the UNSW Business School.

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Photo: Shutterstock

“The banking royal commission’s recommendations to address with past misconduct are important, and the forensic searchlight that it shone on financial services and its regulation means that industry and government can no longer dodge the issues,” says Professor Pamela Hanrahan from the UNSW Business School. “But it’s the forward-looking proposals that will have the most impact if they are implemented properly and in a timely way”.

The Hayne royal commission has delivered a damning report into into misconduct in the Australian financial services industry. It spent 12 months investigating wrongdoing by some of the nation's biggest institutions.

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Professor Pamela Hanrahan.

Pamela Hanrahan, Professor of Commercial Law and Regulation at UNSW Business School, says it provides an important opportunity to reset the relationship between financial services providers and their retail and small business customers, and to raise standards of corporate behaviour and accountability across the whole economy. “The challenge is to ensure that the lessons are learned this time, by both industry and government.”

The banking royal commission exposed revelations that caused shock nationwide. The government said it would act on all 76 recommendations made by the inquiry.

As author of three of the royal commission’s published background papers – on financial services, superannuation and aspects of foreign financial services regulation – Professor Hanrahan is uniquely positioned to comment on the final report and what it means for the future.

Four sets of recommendations for the future are particularly significant, Professor Hanrahan said.  “These relate to factors driving the culture in financial institutions, the role of financial intermediaries (such as advisers and brokers) in the distribution of financial products, consumer protection reforms, and simplification of law and improved oversight of financial regulators.”

On culture, the royal commission has recommended greater oversight by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) of bankers’ remuneration, and the extension of the Bank Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) to other APRA-regulated institutions. It has also recommended strengthening the accountability of superannuation trustees and their directors. 

On intermediaries, changes are recommended to ensure intermediaries who purport to act for the client, rather than the financial institution, do so in the client’s interest and are not in conflicted by the way they are remunerated.  “Financial advisers and mortgage brokers have been singled out for particular attention, and the recommendations will likely alter the way these types of services are offered in future.”

“The financial services industry is the second-largest sector of the Australian economy”, Professor Hanrahan said.  “The explosion this century in the number and complexity of financial products and services, and the opportunities and risks presented by ongoing digital disruption, mean industry and government must get this right. The Australian community cannot afford poor quality laws, ineffective regulators, or unsustainable or exploitative business practices in financial services.  The Royal Commission report is measured and balanced.  But both industry and government will need to step up.”

For further details contact Professor Pamela Hanrahan on 0434 070 297 or p.hanrahan@unsw.edu.au.

Media contact: Julian Lorkin on (02) 9385 9887, 0405 805 365, or email j.lorkin@unsw.edu.au.