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Banks need to meet customer needs: Bligh

Alex Druce
ABA chief Anna Bligh says banks must adapt or go the same way as newspapers

Australian banks struggling to retain consumers' trust following a raft of scandals could become the latest industry incumbents to lose customers to newer tech-savvy rivals, banking association chief Anna Bligh says.

Ms Bligh said, while recommendations from the financial services royal commission would help change banks' attitudes, delivering services that customers need and want will also be crucial to their long-term health.

"The taxi industry thought they were operating a great service, but were completely blindsided by someone came along with a better way of doing it, and customers in droves have gone," Ms Bligh said.

Change requires adapting to new consumer habits and technology, she said.

"Music, media - all the major bannerheads of Australia's newspapers - thought they had a fantastic product, happily thought that their customers were lucky to have them and now those same customers have abandoned them," she told Thursday's FINSIA Summit 2018 in Sydney.

"It is not hard to think of entirely different ways of intermediating money and credit, so it is going to be about investing in best possible way to give customers what they want."

The ABA on Wednesday announced the amendments to its Code of Practice to end 'fees for no service' and get banks to refund any fees incorrectly levied.

The refreshed industry code aims to stop banks charging fees to dead people and ensure they only extract fees from customers in exchange for services actually provided.

Asked why senior executives weren't held to account for wrongdoing in the banking sector, Ms Bligh said severance packages were often designed protect the reputation of the person leaving - even if they had broken the law.

She said that was to the detriment of Australia's corporate culture, and that it can give other staff a signal that misconduct would be tolerated.

"We have an interesting culture, which is not restricted to financial services, where the more senior a person ... even if the behaviour is very poor ... the more likely their separation from the organisation (won't) be described that way," Ms Bligh said.

"Someone will be 'moving on', they will be 'leaving'."