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Opinion

One year on from the Royal Commission – reading the signs at the NAB AGM

What can we learn about the post-Royal Commission world of Australian banking from the National Australia Bank AGM?

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Good morning and welcome to the National Australia Bank AGM. A modest crowd, with a median age probably in the late 60s – and sporting the full gamut of attire from bow ties and Melbourne Cup hats to stubby shorts and Blundstone boots – has made its way into the International Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. 

The traditional welcome to the land by an Aboriginal elder has been completed, and it’s time to get under way. What can we learn about modern Australian banking from today’s gathering?

1. Phil Chronican, the chairman, takes the stage first. Chronican is the perfect chairman for modern times, in two respects. Firstly, he is solid, dependable, calm, contrite. He doesn’t deviate a single comma from the pre-released address transcript. He says the right things about NAB’s loss of trust and need for change and sounds like he means it. Targets for growth? Not much to say. Ambition? God no. That’s not what Chronican is here for, not in this environment. It is 20 minutes before there is any mention of the performance of the business.

2. Secondly, he’s perfect because he wasn’t in that role a year ago, which is generally the most beneficial quality a chief executive or chairman can have in Australian banking.


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