Ian McPhee to review bank reforms

By David Donaldson

May 24, 2016

Former Commonwealth auditor-general Ian McPhee will oversee the implementation of a suite of banking industry reforms to improve customer rights and whistleblower protections.

McPhee will report quarterly on progress in the measures, with the first to be released in last July, and will continue “until the industry’s commitments have been substantially implemented”.

He retired after a decade as auditor-general and 44 years as a public servant in March last year with an Order of Australia award for distinguished service to public administration, particularly in the areas of accountability and policy development.
Australian Bankers’ Association CEO Steven Münchenberg said the industry group was pleased McPhee agreed to take on the job.

“Mr McPhee’s primary role will be to form an independent judgement of whether the banking industry is making appropriate progress towards delivering on its commitments, on the basis of the evidence provided by banks and consultations with a range of other interested groups, including regulators, consumer representatives, community organisations, unions and other finance sector representatives,” he explained.

Changes to be monitored by the former head auditor, agreed to on July 21, include:

  • reviewing product sales commissions and changing them where they could lead to poor customer outcomes;
  • improving customer complaints systems and establishing an independent customer advocate;
  • improving and standardising whistleblower provisions;
  • removing individuals from the industry for poor conduct;
  • a review of the Code of Banking Practice.

His experience overseeing spending and implementation in the public service will be useful as McPhee monitors changes in an industry that’s been through a rough patch of late. He’ll no doubt be watching to ensure the industry is taking its commitments seriously, and not taking the tick and flick approach he observed often rears its head within government:

“It’s not good enough to just presume that because management has decided this will happen that it will happen. There needs to be appropriate follow up arrangements; there needs to be understanding amongst the managers in the organisation that it is their responsibility to ensure these things actually happen and take responsibility for checking that they have been.

“Narrow interpretation is a short-hand term that I use when something is agreed to be done, [but not checked] to make sure that is actioned and done in an appropriate way. And not only is it actioned in an appropriate way but having the desired impact as well. In some of the reports we do, it’s very obvious managers take a narrow view of their responsibility; don’t check with colleagues that the desired effect has taken place.”

See the full range of banking industry reforms McPhee will be overseeing here.

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