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‘Worse than ever’ culture at Australia’s big banks revealed

Eliza Bavin
·2-min read
This combination of photos show the signs of the
(Source: PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the biggest revelations to emerge from the Banking Royal Commission was the toxic sales culture cultivated by the big four which saw products being sold to customers that they didn't need or want just so employees could meet their targets.

Anna Bligh, the chief of the Australian Banking Association (ABA), said this culture has been abolished in the banking industry.

“Bank culture has changed. Banks have overhauled the way they pay and reward their staff to put customers at the centre of their remuneration framework,” Bligh said.

“The linking of remuneration and bonuses to direct sales targets has been abolished”.

But according to those who still work at the Big Four, this is not the case. A focus group organised by the Finance Sector Union (FSU) found that the sale culture still very much exists, the banks just call it by a different name to avoid trouble.

“Participants overwhelmingly reported that sales culture had not changed to any significant degree, that leaderboards still exist, and that sales targets are still a fundamental part of their daily work,” the research report said.

“Group members all agreed that the banks had changed the language around sales from ‘sales targets’ to ‘customer needs met’.

“This came up time and time again in all focus groups. All participants reported an increased focus on selling insurance.”

When asked about the current culture, one worker said it has never been so bad, and reported that some workers were choosing unemployment over the working conditions.

“Everything has gotten worse. The culture is so bad that lenders are leaving, even staff who are close to retirement are leaving to unemployment,” the employee said.

“If anything, since the [Royal Commission], things have just gotten worse. The banks think that no one is watching since the Royal Commission they’re just slipping things back in and it's now worse than ever.”

Many workers reported issues with being under-staffed which resulted in missing targets. The workers said they would then be punished by not receiving bonuses.

“There’s not enough hours in the day to achieve everything that is asked. I’ve never ever been pulled up on anything except the sales number,” said one respondent.

“They are trying to get us to do the sales that we used to do pre-COVID and two or three years ago.”

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