Daily Bulletin


Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Steve Worthington, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology

The US$185 million fine levied on US bank Wells Fargo for unauthorised accounts opened by employees seeking bonuses appears to have become a tipping point for industry action in Australia.

Reacting to sales targets and bonus incentives, Wells Fargo employees artificially inflated their sales by secretly opening accounts. They then transferred funds using these accounts, triggering overdraft fees and other charges. Staff also falsely opened credit card and debit card accounts, causing credit card holders to incur annual fees. Debit cards were issued with PINs, again without the customer’s knowledge. More than two million such fake accounts were created.

This week Westpac chief Brian Hartzer said the bank would remove all product-related incentives across its 2,000 branch tellers and instead base their incentives on customer feedback about service quality.

The move comes after a long history of sales-driven banking cultures. Wells Fargo confirmed it had fired over 5,300 employees for such behaviour, between January 2011 and March 2016.

Employees of Wells Fargo had been vocal about the high-pressure culture that existed in the bank in an LA Times article in 2013. They spoke of being regularly humiliated by managers in front of their colleagues and threatened with the sack for failing to meet targets. Some begged family members to sign up and open unneeded accounts. The root cause of this pressure on Wells Fargo employees was the bank’s corporate culture, and a cross-selling target of at least eight financial products per customer.

US regulators say the record fine levied on Wells Fargo should “Serve notice to the entire industry that such initiatives need to be carefully monitored as a basic element in any company’s compliance program, to make sure that incentives for employees are aligned with the welfare of customers”.

Such misdemeanour’s by financial services providers are not unusual. Earlier in 2016 Santander Bank was fined US$10 million for allegedly enrolling customers in overdraft protection services that they had never authorised.

Regulators in Australia have also become concerned that sales incentives are harming the financial industry’s integrity. The Australian Bankers Association is conducting a review of “product sales commissions and product based payments that could lead to poor customer outcomes”.

In its submission to the review, the Finance Sector Union of Australia (FSU) has focused on these poor customer outcomes. It puts much of the blame on the “conflicted remuneration” that causes “the systematic application of remuneration and work systems that drive employees to sell and/or push products and services” to bank customers.

The FSU submission is based on a survey of 1,298 bank employees undertaken in August 2016. Based on feedback from members, it says bank staff employment is often dependent on “their ability to gain referrals, sell the product of the week or reach a volume based target”. The FSU concludes that “existing remuneration systems are having a detrimental effect on the lives of bank employees” and that the Australian banking industry’s remuneration systems is “causing the industry harm”.

This week Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe also weighed in, saying remuneration structures within financial institutions should promote behaviour that benefits not just an institution, but its client.

Australian banks are some of the most profitable in the world and are in a strong position to lead by example in gaining and then sustaining the trust of their customers. Cross selling of products and services can be achieved by a rigorous focus on customer service that produces not just customer satisfaction, but customer delight.

Achieving this means confronting the dilemmas created by “conflicted remuneration,” whereby bank executive rewards are directly related to sales and subsequent profitability. If sales targets continue to lead to customer harm, banks will lose the vital ingredient of trust that banking relies on. And those calling for a banking royal commission will be granted their wish.

Authors: Steve Worthington, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/banks-can-target-service-before-sales-to-avoid-a-banking-royal-commission-65885

Writers Wanted

Angus Taylor's tech roadmap is fundamentally flawed — renewables are doable almost everywhere

arrow_forward

Climate explained: humans have dealt with plenty of climate variability

arrow_forward

Why do bankers behave so badly? They make too much money to ask questions

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How To Remove Rubbish More Effectively

It can be a big task to remove household rubbish. The hardest part is finding the best way to get rid of your junk. It can be very overwhelming to know exactly where to start with so many option...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Pass Skills Certifications Tests

Developing the right set of skills is valuable not only to your career, but for life in general. You can get certified in these skills through obtaining a license. Without a certified license, y...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion