Some of the most important revelations from the Hayne Banking Royal Commission cannot be measured, yet they’re at the heart of the problems.
Most of the failures revealed are human failures: in character, moral courage, compassion, decency and leadership. And they’re not ‘bottom-up’ problems caused by some shady cohort of Millennial tellers, they’re ‘top-down’ problems caused by a colossal failure of leadership.
You don’t need an MBA to know that it’s illegal and morally wrong to charge dead people for services you’re not going to provide, or to steer your clients towards inferior products because you’ll make a higher commission from them.
But these products and practices - and the weasel words that shroud them in secrecy - are not created by the drones who sell them, they’re devised, structured and marketed by those occupying the highest echelons of the organisations. And these are the individuals who pocket the greatest rewards.
Forty years ago, I reported on the late Sir Keith Campbell as he travelled the country taking submissions for his Inquiry into the Australian Banking System. He was a decent man and he patiently listened as individuals, organisations and businesses across the nation gave their thoughts on what our banking system should look like.
In the years after he handed down his report, our financial landscape was transformed into a virtually fully-deregulated system. I often wonder whether Keith Campbell would like to revisit his findings.
But he couldn’t have predicted that a once respected profession would abandon its principles on such a massive scale. Bank managers used to be a highly valued member of local communities. The best of them played roles far in excess of their mandates. They understood their communities’ needs and the people who comprised them. They had substantial powers with which to help them to improve their lives
Today, the demise of local branches and the diminishment of the role of the manager has seen clients downgraded to faceless numbers. It’s a lot easy to rip off someone if they’re a number.
We’ve become obsessed with measuring virtually every facet of our lives. From the moment we’re born to the day we shuffle off, we’re measured, assessed and compared. The digital world has made the situation infinitely worse and, in the pursuit of ‘disruption’, behemoths like Facebook and Amazon have turned data into gold, no matter the collateral damage they leave in their wake.
Sadly, most of the things we measure are economic. Our leaders have convinced us that these are the best gauges of our progress and happiness. We know that’s wrong. We know that happiness and satisfaction in our lives come from loving and helping our families, caring for our friends and neighbours and our country and appreciating the beauty in our world.
We need to find a way to measure that.