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BFCSA: ex CBA Ralph Norris: loyalty first before customer safety: Bring on Royal Commission into Bankers & ASIC and EDRs

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Ralph Norris denies CBA conspiracy to defraud, calls advisers ‘rogue people’

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Ralph Norris denies CBA conspiracy to defraud, calls advisers ‘rogue people’

Ralph Norris says ‘large organisations are always at risk of having these sorts of things happen . . . Certainly there is no way this is some form of conspiracy. It is just some deceitful people did some things that they should not have done.  Photo: Michel O Sullivan

JAMIE FREED AND JAMES EYERS  Australian Financial Review

Former Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ralph Norris has labelled the advisers involved in the bank’s financial planning scandal as “rogue people” and denied any conspiracy to defraud customers.

Mr Norris – who ran CBA between 2005 and 2011, during which time the misconduct identified by a series of reports by Fairfax Media and a Senate committee report occurred – admitted to being aware of “some of the problems” while he was chief executive and considered the compensation procedure as adequate. “I thought we had put in place the appropriate resolution for those problems. Certainly I don’t know the specifics of everything that has happened since I have been there.”

Earlier this month, chief executive Ian Narev announced a new compensation process to determine whether the bad advice was more widespread. CBA is not revealing how many aggrieved customers of Commonwealth Financial Planning or Financial Wisdom have registered with the scheme.

In an interview conducted in the air on a delivery flight with his former employer, Air New Zealand, Mr Norris also weighed in on regulation, as the planning debacle has increased pressure on the federal government’s attempts to wind back aspects of the Future of Financial Advice reforms in favour of the banks.

“I think this is a situation where ­dishonest people are always a risk. And with legislation or whatever, it doesn’t necessarily overcome dishonest people,” he said. “If laws and regulation solved everything, well, we wouldn’t have the need for courts to handle anything like that. It comes down to the fact that it is a case where when you find these issues, you have got to look at your processes and systems and say, ‘What can we do to prevent this from happening again?’ That is going to be more effective than a piece of legislation.”



Mr Narev made a similar point announcing the new compensation scheme, ­saying this month regulators are not a substitute for ethical leadership.

Mr Norris described CBA as “a good organisation” and said it was “sad there has been a situation where there have been some rogue people that have not done the right thing by the customers”.

“Large organisations are always at risk of having these sorts of things happen. You deal with it. Certainly there is no way this is some form of conspiracy. It is just some deceitful people did some things that they should not have done.”

He said Mr Narev’s response was analogous to how Mr Norris handled the Storm Financial scandal, after CBA lent to investors who lost money on Storm’s advice. On Friday, CBA announced former High Court judge Ian Callinan would chair the independent panel established to decide client compensation claims. Mr Callinan worked with the bank to resolve Storm. Mr Callinan also worked with the bank to evaluate complaints about CBA offers to Storm investors.

Mr Norris said he would not be seeking another CEO role. “I have done my dash,” he said. “I have been chief executive of three organisations over a 20-year period and it is time for me to smell the roses.” He also said he remained loyal to CBA and would never sit on a board of one of the bank’s competitors. “I’m one of these people; I become very loyal to the organisations I worked for.”

The Australian Financial Review


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Guest Friday, 04 December 2020