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Andrew Dickens: Banks need to solve problems behind closed doors

Author
Andrew Dickens,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 5 July 2019, 9:27AM
I think it's fair to say that the ANZ is giving an impression as being the big bad bully boys of banking. Photo / Edward Swift
I think it's fair to say that the ANZ is giving an impression as being the big bad bully boys of banking. Photo / Edward Swift

Well, we've got a banking sector that we were told was one of the most robust in the world and one of the reasons we navigated the Global Financial Crisis in relative good health. But all of a sudden it seems as though the wheels are falling off with the sector brawling like kids in a playground.

It's the Reserve Bank versus the merchant banks. Our regulatory bank reckons the trading banks need to have more money in the vault just in case the world's economy turns to custard. The trading banks reckon they're just fine and the Reserve Bank is being paranoid.

Then the ANZ, has pulled the ultimate, “if you don't shut up I'm going to sell the ball and go home” play.

It's amazing how ANZ has suddenly made it's way onto the front pages in just a few weeks.

They're censured for not complying with banking rules for 5 years, their CEO leaves under a cloud of alleged financial impropriety, it's revealed that 7 staff were let go because they wiped information under pressure to hit targets and now they say that if the Reserve Bank doesn't back down then they'll pull out of some New Zealand operations which wouldn't be optimal for the New Zealand economy.

I think it's fair to say that the ANZ is giving an impression as being the big bad bully boys of banking.

But are they the bullies or is it the Reserve Bank under Adrian Orr? Has Adrian, the former golden boy of superannuation, lost his glow after becoming a governor and turned into a dictatorial worry wart?

I think it's a bit of both. The ANZ is overacting fantastically and the public threats does nothing to make you feel that your money is in safe hands. But the Reserve Bank is also being petulant and impatient.

There is nothing wrong with asking for greater capital adequacy as the turbulent world economy goes through a wobble. There are more than enough people who believe the lessons of the GFC have not been learnt. Meanwhile there are trade wars and cold wars and oil wars back on the radar after a time of relative calm. But it seems as though the Reserve Bank want everything done their way. They want it done too fast. They want it done too soon.

This week Finance Minister Grant Robertson asked the banks to be mature and to talk to each other. It's all he can say because remember the government is not in charge of the Reserve Bank or the trading banks. But he's right.

There needs to be some to and fro here. The media debate is unseemly. The regulator has a point but so do the trading banks.

At the end of the day it's our money they're talking about and I would feel a lot more comfortable if the banks weren't brawling and sorting their problems out like grownups behind closed doors.

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