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Trust issues facing Australia’s banks can’t be solved by ‘comms’, says Anna Bligh

The Australian banking industry will need more than PR and comms to move beyond its current trust issues, the Australian Bankers’ Association CEO Anna Bligh told the opening keynote of the Mumbrella Finance Marketing Summit.

Bligh also flagged a fundamental cultural shift and technology investments as important in winning the trust of Millennial consumers.

Former Queensland premier Bligh now works for the ABA

“You can’t comms your way out of a problem as big as the trust issue facing Australian banks at the moment,” said Bligh. “There has to be real consistent and focused effort around culture and conduct and there has to be significant investment in new technology that will make the customer experience as good as it can be.

“You have to do the hard years on change but then you have to do a much better job than in the recent past in communicating how banks communicate their role in Australian society.”

Catering to young consumers is a key part of Australian banks’ future, Bligh told the audience: “These are things banks would never have given thought to 10 years ago. Telstra, in their recent Millennials, Mobiles & Money report, found when asked which platforms or organisations they trust with personal information, 76% of Millennials nominated banks.”

Blight believes this is due to Australian banks’ embrace of technology: “This I think reflects their high degree of comfort in that virtual digital space. No other provider came close to this level of trust.”

“This ‘trust capital’ with Millennials will be enormously important to the banking industry as it seeks to change the way Australians feel about banks. Harnessing that goodwill in that cohort will be one of the critical factors.”

Bligh rejected the view that a royal commission on banking is necessary, pointing out that the industry’s reputational issues are not due to systematic corruption or fraud and that such an enquiry would be a distraction for management.

“There’s a genuine concern that an enquiry of that scale will slow down the pace of reform,” Bligh said before going on to point out the potential damage on international capital markets which Australian banks rely on for around 40% of their funding needs.

Bligh concluded by flagging that the banking industry will be explaining how the sector distributes around three quarters of its profits in dividends to Australians, making the health of the sector important to the community’s financial wellbeing.

To conclude, she hoped that were she to appear next year, there would be less bad news. “I’d love to be addressing you when no bank is on the front page of any newspaper,” she said. “I think we can genuinely aspire as an industry to do much better.”

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