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Criticism of banks warranted, says Westpac boss


Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted says criticism of the Australian banking sector is “warranted” but hopes a royal commission into alleged misconduct will restore trust and confidence.

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Maxsted told the lender’s annual general meeting in Sydney today that the board was “disappointed” at the deterioration of the banking sector’s reputation but accepted there had been times when the industry had failed to meet customer expectations.

He said that while Westpac previously had argued that inquiries into the sector are unnecessary, the recently announced royal commission would ultimately restore trust, respect and confidence in Australia’s financial system.

“As a bank, and as an industry, we also underestimated the intensity of community, regulatory and government reaction when these expectations have not been met,” Maxsted said.

“The board and management at Westpac understand we must proactively respond to these concerns and lift our standards to an even higher level – and we are.”

Chief executive Brian Hartzer said the royal commission would give the bank the opportunity to tell “our story”.

“Banks have been a political football for too long,” Hartzer told the AGM.

“We are embracing the Royal Commission as a way to finally draw a line in the sand on calls for inquiries.”

The chief executive said while the inquiry may uncover issues across the industry, he hopes it will show that Westpac is working to fix past issues as they arise.

The lender also revealed it will leave its dividend unchanged at 94 cents per share, despite the impact of the government’s bank levy, which cost Westpac $66 million in 2017 and is expected to rise to $284 million in 2018.


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