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BFCSA: Bad Banks but CBA the worst according to 800 pressurized staff and unrealistic targets

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CBA tellers driven to despair by hard sell

Date July 1, 2014

Adele Ferguson, Ben Butler

Pressure on bank tellers to push customers into Commonwealth Bank financial products such as insurance and managed funds is causing stress, depression and bullying, according to an explosive new survey of staff.  The survey obtained by Fairfax Media says the pressure of chasing sales targets is also leading to fraud at the bank.  Conducted in May by the Finance Sector Union, the survey found that arbitrary performance targets linked to sales and customer satisfaction had resulted in "broken pay models" and "an erosion of trust".  The findings come as the Commonwealth Bank reels from a damning Senate inquiry into widespread misconduct in its financial planning division, which culminated in a recommendation for a royal commission.  FSU national secretary Leon Carter said 800 bank staff where interviewed for the survey in response to "repeated nationwide reports of workers at CBA experiencing stress at work".  He said CBA was the "biggest and the baddest" of the banks. "Staff have to up-sell and on-sell products and services and debt to consumers to maximise profits for the bank."

CBA is set to make a record profit this year of more than $8 billion. It is renegotiating its enterprise bargaining agreement with the union.  A CBA spokeswoman said the bank disagreed with the union's "flawed" survey, which was part of the union's EBA campaign, took the wellbeing of staff seriously and encouraged whistleblowers to come forward in the bank.  More than three-quarters of staff surveyed said they felt stressed about achieving their targets and more than half said they had to work overtime to achieve their targets. A Victorian-based staff member said linking sales and pay was "a broken system that can't be repaired" and was inappropriate given the trust customers place in banks.

In Queensland, a staff member said they recently discovered "again" staff were falsifying credit applications, which was "widespread in our area". The staff member said it was brought to the attention of management, who already knew about it. "Is this not fraud … Don't we get dismissed for this conduct? No satisfactory answer was given."  "When people are under pressure to achieve targets they will do these things," the staff member said. The CBA said it was "urgently" investigating the allegation.  The report comes as the Coalition introduced regulations to water down reforms to financial advice, effective from Monday.

More than half the staff surveyed said they did not know how targets were set. One staff member said: "Sadly the decay of CBA is upon us. In my branch there is not one staff member that feels satisfied with their job," another said. "It is becoming more and more exhausting trying to get targets and with the stress our customer experience score [customer satisfaction rating] is falling."  Mr Carter said staff were subjected to a league table, sometimes in the form of a whiteboard in the office. A staff member in Victoria said "I hate the new visual boards … they make it feel like a board of shame if you have not hit your revenue for the week."  Another said "When you are the only one that cannot contribute to the team $$ it makes you feel bloody awful especially when it's on the whiteboard."

A former CBA financial planner and whistleblower Jeff Morris, who warned the corporate regulator in 2008 about a financial planning scandal in the bank's planning division and left the bank last year, said: "A lot of the problem stems from the American Cohen-Brown sales drivel that has permeated the organisation in a quest for sales and profit at any cost.''  ''The poor staff get no respite: sales meetings, videos, weekly 'Big Fives' and ritual humiliation on the 'Whiteboard of Shame' at the end of the week for the 'underperformers'.''



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