Financial sector needs to rethink its approach to self-regulation

Thursday, 20 October 2016  @Business School

The UNSW Business School’s Professor Pamela Hanrahan will give the second of the Professorial Lectures.

Governance expert and former ASIC Regional Commissioner Professor Pamela Hanrahan will call on the financial sector to rethink its approach to obligations under self-regulatory codes, as part of a concerted effort to restore warranted trust in the institutions of finance.

In a wide-ranging lecture at UNSW Australia in Sydney, Professor Hanrahan will identify the weak normative underpinnings of self-regulation as one of five key lessons about corporate governance and accountability to be draw from the experience of the Australian banks since the Global Financial Crisis.

“In the eight years since the GFC, the public’s disillusionment with the major banks, and distrust of the systems and agencies charged with overseeing them, has been steadily rising. We are now at the point where two-thirds of voters support a Royal Commission into banking,” she says. “This has occurred at the same time as the banks’ financial performance for shareholders, and market share in a whole range of customer areas, has increased.”

She argues the major banks are among the most heavily regulated businesses in Australia, and are prominently and publicly committed to a range of self-regulatory codes for sound customer, environmental, social and governance practices. “By the existing corporate governance and accountability playbook, they should be among the most trusted organisations in the country,” she said.

She feels there is a perception that many of their stated commitments are not being matched by their performance. “The gap is widening between how the banks present themselves, and how the experience of individual customers is portrayed.”

“If self-regulation is to remain part of the governance and accountability picture in the financial sector, then banks and other financial institutions need to rethink how they explain, and honour, the obligations they assume.”

Another lesson to be drawn from recent experience is that regulators will continue to focus their attention on the legal responsibilities of boards. “ASIC’s recent win against the founders of Storm Financial demonstrates the ongoing willingness of Australian courts to hold directors to account where their management of the business exposes it to risk, including regulatory and reputational risk, as a result of its dealings with customers. That trend is likely to continue.”

The lecture will also reflect on the changing role of shareholders, particularly institutional investors, in influencing behaviour, the difficulties in relying on legislative reform to achieve meaningful change, and the role of culture in the debate.

For further details or to attend: https://www.alumni.unsw.edu.au

Media contact: Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887 | 0405 805 365 | j.lorkin@unsw.edu.au

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