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Australia gets its royal commission – but to what end?

Australian banks will face a year-long review into their conduct, but it’s not clear what they will expose that’s not already out there.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev

When Euromoney interviewed Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) chief executive Ian Narev in Sydney in July, he had this to say about the idea of a royal commission into banking conduct.

“Why do you want it?” he asked. “You want it because you believe there needs to be more scrutiny of the industry. But just look at what has happened in the last three, four years.”

He had by that stage already appeared twice before parliament as part of a review into Australian banking, and had publicly apologized for misconduct, as had the other big four CEOs.

“I can’t see what can possibly be gained from using more money and taking more time when the industry’s already shown a demonstrable commitment to take steps to do better,” he added.

It seemed that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, an ex-Goldman Sachs banker himself, felt the same way, but by November it became clear that proponents of a royal commission had the numbers to get their way in parliament.

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