NAB boss bids to rally the troops

‘Let’s get all hands on deck’


NA­TIONAL Aus­tralia Bank act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Phil Chron­i­can has called for a “whole of gov­ern­ment” ap­proach to re­ju­ve­nate busi­ness con­fi­dence and en­cour­age in­vest­ment.

Mr Chron­i­can says a simiar ap­proach worked in 2014, when con­certed ac­tion across all arms of gov­ern­ment — in­clud­ing reg­u­la­tors — had reined in the boom in house prices.

“The most im­por­tant is­sue that I think our lead­ers in Can­berra and our lead­ers in busi­ness need to fo­cus on is that, if we’re go­ing to have sus­tain­able growth in Aus­tralia, it needs to come from busi­ness in­vest­ment,” Mr Chron­i­can said yes­ter­day.

“There­fore, the more we can do to drive con­fi­dence in the small busi­ness com­mu­nity, and en­sure that we as banks are able to be in a po­si­tion to sup­port that con­fi­dence with credit, the sooner we’re go­ing to get on to a sus­tain­able growth path.”

Mr Chron­i­can, who will chair NAB’s board from Novem­ber 15, was speak­ing af­ter the bank re­ported a net profit of $4.8 bil­lion for the year to Septem­ber, down 13.6 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

Cash profit — a mea­sure of un­der­ly­ing earn­ings that is closely watched in the bank­ing in­dus­try — fell 10.6 per cent to $5.1 bil­lion, be­low the $5.19 bil­lion broadly ex­pected by an­a­lysts.

Mr Chron­i­can said the bur­den of reg­u­la­tion, in­clud­ing hur­dles in credit ap­proval pro­cesses, was an im­ped­i­ment to busi­ness in­vest­ment.

“In our own case, get­ting a clar­i­fied and sim­pli­fied ap­proach to (reg­u­la­tory con­cerns around) re­spon­si­ble lend­ing … would cer­tainly be help­ful,” Mr Chron­i­can said.

“In the case of our cus­tomers, I think that a lot of it is tied up in many of the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment is­sues that they have to get in­volved with.”

While medium-term re­form to the tax sys­tem was help­ful, a bet­ter near-term means of kick­start­ing a busi­ness in­vest­ment cy­cle was mi­cro-eco­nomic and reg­u­la­tory re­form, he said.

Un­veil­ing its re­sults yes­ter­day, NAB re­vealed it would cut its fi­nal div­i­dend to 83c, fully franked, down from 99c a year ago. The re­duc­tion mir­rors the cut to its in­terim pay­out in May.

Shares in the bank jumped 2.2 per cent, or 62c, yes­ter­day to $28.42.

NAB also an­nounced that mem­bers of its ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship team would re­ceive no short-term bonuses and no in­crease to fixed pay.

Ex­ec­u­tives had been el­i­gi­ble for short-term bonuses of up to $14.4 mil­lion, the bank said.

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