National Australia Bank’s decision to put all of its bankers through training courses could be the beginning of an industry-wide standard that lifts professionalism and ethical standards.

NAB chief executive Ross McEwan wants every NAB employee to do the basic course and all commercial and private bankers will be required to reach the chartered banker standard.
“I think this is the right thing to do for a bank that is concentrating on getting colleagues really engaged in the business of doing great things with customers,” he says.
Qualifications an asset
Whitehead says the FINSIA qualifications would be an asset to any Australian banker with global ambitions because they are recognised by the Chartered Banker Institute in London.
Having a universally accepted banking qualification taught in Australia is thanks to the foresight of Whitehead and the FINSIA board president, David Gall. Two years ago, when they launched the chartered banker courses, Whitehead and Gall made sure it was in keeping with the British standards.
McEwan has long been a supporter of lifting professional standards in banking. When he was CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland he made sure RBS employees completed courses such as the chartered banker professional banking fundamentals and the certified banker qualifications.
The payback on it will be outstanding for both our colleagues as well as for our customers.
Ross McEwan, NAB chief executive
On his first day as NAB chief McEwan showed his intent to reinforce the right cultural values at the bank by signing the banking and finance oath (BFO), a voluntary pledge to act in good faith and speak out against wrongdoing.
The BFO is a voluntary pledge that has been signed by thousands of Australian bankers. Chanticleer understands only one local organisation has followed the lead of the Netherlands and made the pledge compulsory.
The organisation in question is Judo Bank, the challenger bank co-founded by former NAB senior executive Joseph Healy. Every person who joins Judo Bank must sign the pledge as part of efforts to “to reassert the ethical foundation of the banking and finance industry beyond regulation and compliance by broadening expectations and discussion to include ethics, integrity, honesty and trust”.
The FINSIA course being undertaken by NAB staff includes a module called ethics and professionalism in banking which includes a discussion of rules-based and principles-based codes.
NAB’s commitment to lift the standards of professionalism in banking has delivered FINSIA the biggest single education contract in its history. But McEwan is not concerned about the cost.
“The payback on it will be outstanding for both our colleagues as well as for our customers,” he says. “I see it as an investment and I don’t begrudge it.”
Uncertain outlook
Turning to the coronavirus, McEwan says Australia and New Zealand had done extremely well managing the containment but the outlook was uncertain.
“I think the Australian public, just like the New Zealand public and these are the two big markets we are in, have done the right thing to enable the freeing up of some of the restrictions that were put in place,” he says.
“It appears at this stage that both Australia and New Zealand are coming out of this in reasonably good shape. But the sad reality is that tens of thousands of businesses have been impacted very harshly by the last three to four months.
“I think we’ve still got some time to see whether those businesses will open up, what the unemployment levels will be, how quickly we get back to GDP growth, and we’re predicting 2022 to being a reasonably good year when we get back to where GDP levels were at the end of 2019.
“I’m optimistic but cautious that there’s still a long way to go yet before we see the end of the COVID-19 issues that have been a major health issue, but it’s been a major financial issue as well.
“I think we’ve just got to be a wee bit cautious. The government’s doing the right thing, working with the industry, with banks, with regulators everybody has been leaning out well, but I think we should be optimistic but very cautious at the same time. We’ve still got a long way to go.”