Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer has faced tough questioning by a Coalition MP over the bank’s handling of managers overseeing a banned financial adviser.
At a hearing in Canberra yesterday, parliamentary banking inquiry chair David Coleman quizzed Mr Hartzer about the specific case of former Westpac and Synchron financial adviser Sudhir Kumar Sinha, who was banned by ASIC until 2022.
Describing the case as a “systemic failure”, Mr Coleman asked the big four bank boss whether any internal punitive action was taken “further up the chain”.
“[We undertook] a very significant and independent review of the managers in Mr Sinha’s case, we looked up and down the chain,” Mr Hartzer responded. “The consequences were significant for a number of individuals.”
Pressed for more information, Mr Hartzer explained that “performance rating, compensation and role responsibilities were changed for a number of individuals”.
The inquiry chair then pressed Mr Hartzer further, asking him to clarify whether any of the investigated managers were fired.
“No one was terminated over that, no,” Mr Hartzer responded.
Westpac took an active role in identifying Mr Sinha’s conduct and reporting it to the authorities, Mr Hartzer said.
“Mr Sinha was fired by us and was discovered by us after controls were put in place in 2013, he was investigated, fired and reported to ASIC,” Mr Hartzer explained.
“There was poor treatment of customers, which is totally unacceptable.”
Mr Coleman was dissatisfied with the explanation, castigating the CEO and repeating his assertion that the “unlawful treatment” of customers was longstanding.
“You shouldn’t really be congratulating yourself that you belatedly worked it out, should you?” Mr Coleman told Mr Hartzer.
Mr Sinha was an authorised representative of Westpac’s for more than a decade until 2014 when he joined the Synchron network, according to ASIC data.
He was banned by ASIC in June 2017 for a period of five years for conduct occurring while he was at Westpac, including multiple failures to conduct ongoing client reviews that had been paid for.
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