What are the key priorities for the banking industry?

Rising cost-of-living and incidence of scams and fraud among the challenges that need to be tackled

What are the key priorities for the banking industry?

Ross McEwan (pictured), chief executive at National Australia Bank (NAB) and chair of the Australian Banking Association (ABA), has outlined five key priorities for the banking industry in response to the current challenges it faces.

At a recent ABA and Trans-Tasman Business Circle event in Sydney, McEwan said the ABA and its member banks, in consultation with the government, have identified the key priorities for the industry.

These are supporting customers impacted by the higher cost of living; protecting customers against scams and fraud; working with customers as they change the way they access and use money; modernising and simplifying payments structures; and working with the insurance sector to deal with cost issues around climate volatility.

Highlighting the impact of the cost-of-living increases, McEwan pointed to research indicating that over 40% of Australians faced financial difficulties in the last quarter, urging those struggling to contact their banks early for assistance. He linked homeownership with improved well-being, expressing concern over the housing supply crisis and the role of banks in collaboration with government and developers to address it.

“All banks want customers to remember that we are here to help; please call early if you’re finding it tough,” he said.

On the topic of fraud and scams, McEwan described the perpetrators as highly organised criminals, stressing the importance of artificial intelligence in detecting unusual behaviour and the need for a collective effort involving banks, government, and the community to combat the issue.

“Educating customers about how to stay safe remains [an] essential role for media, banks, government and other industries,” he said. “The industry is very focused on this issue with investment in resources and technology.”

Addressing changes in how customers access and use money, McEwan noted a significant shift towards digital transactions and a decline in branch and cash use, advocating for the industry to adapt to these changing behaviours.

McEwan, who is preparing to exit the banking sector, also raised concerns about regulatory burdens, arguing that the complexity created by various initiatives negatively affects customer experience and hinders competition, especially for smaller banks. He urged for a reduction in red tape to foster business growth and stronger communities.

McEwan emphasised the importance of building trustworthy banks with a focus on customers and colleagues, expressing enthusiasm for the industry’s future under the ABA’s continued leadership.

“Continuing to build strong banks that our community can trust is vital. And to do this, our customers and colleagues must be at the heart of all we do,” he said.

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