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NAB has a ‘mountain to climb’, concedes chairman

Outgoing NAB chairman Ken Henry has acknowledged that the bank has a “long way to go” before it can meet the expectations of all of its customers.

In the final report of the banking royal commission, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne alleged that “there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice”.

Speaking to the media, outgoing NAB chairman Ken Henry, who last week announced that he and CEO Andrew Thorburn would be stepping down from their roles, accepted Commissioner Hayne’s position, conceding that the bank has a “mountain to climb” before closing the “big gap”.

“The gap that I see is that NAB does aspire to do the right thing by every customer, every time, and everywhere, and we’re a long way from that,” he said.

“We’ve got an absolute mountain to climb [in] order to achieve our aspiration for the bank.”

Mr Henry claimed that the bank was making “big changes” to staff in the organisation and the systems, pointing to the lender’s $1.5 million investment over three years.  

Mr Henry continued: “[We] accept that [we’ve] not been able to satisfy customer expectations, nor community expectations.”

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“[For] that, we’re deeply sorry; we are saying we’re deeply sorry, and in our departures, we are hoping that we will contribute to the development of a better industry that’s capable of delivering better outcomes for customers.”

The NAB chairman also expressed regret over the manner in which he “performed” while giving evidence before the banking royal commission.  

NAB was singled out by Commissioner Hayne in his report, who said that the bank “stands apart from the other three major banks”.  

“Having heard from both the CEO, [Andrew] Thorburn, and the chair, Dr [Ken] Henry, I am not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned,” he said.

Mr Henry said that while initially he was “surprised” and “upset” by Commissioner Hayne’s remarks, he has since regreted his approach during the public hearings.

“The more I thought about it – and I can't tell you how many times I've relived that appearance – I understand the criticism. I did not perform well, I really should have performed quite differently,” he said.

“I should have been much more open.”

Mr Henry added: “I was not feeling resentful, but I can imagine why it came across that way. I was feeling defensive and I should not have been.”

The major bank is currently conducting a “global search” for a new CEO and chairman, with NAB’s head of retail banking and former NSW Premier Mike Baird rumoured to be in pole position to take on the role of CEO.  

[Related: Major bank chairman and CEO step down]

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