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Banks need to regain trust, says ANZ

AAP logoAAP 15/12/2016 Trevor Chappell

Banks have to regain the trust of customers angry with big business and politicians for appearing out of step with real life, says ANZ chairman David Gonski.

Speaking at an annual general meeting that was later disrupted by climate change activists, the highly respected businessman said there is a growing disparity in the reality of people's lives and how political and business leaders live and talk.

Many Australians are worried about their jobs, the cost of living, and whether their children will have a better life than they have, Mr Gonski said.

There is a general lack of trust, or even anger, at major institutions, and some view the powerful banks as uncommunicative, unfair and arrogant.

"While criticism of banks is not new, I believe that large institutions, including big business, have been slower than they should have been to open windows, to stop the jargon and speak more plainly, to listen to the views of the community, and - above all - to treat our customers fairly and responsibly," Mr Gonski told shareholders.

"Banks face many challenges but perhaps none is as fundamental as maintaining the support of society for the functions we perform.

"Let me be clear. ANZ has not been immune from this. And let me be equally clear. We get it.

"We know we need to change and we are changing."

The meeting stretched out to three-and-a-half-hours as climate change activists repeatedly made statements and asked questions about ANZ's funding of projects that the activists said may contribute to global warming and climate change.

Proceedings were disrupted when they unfurled a long banner bearing the words "ANZ warming your world" at the front of the auditorium.

Mr Gonski told shareholders that ANZ does consider environmental impacts and associated potential risks to its own business when loaning out money for projects.

Chief executive Shayne Elliott said the current operating environment was dominated by headwinds, none of which are likely to change soon.

Mr Gonski said those challenges include a softening Chinese economy, volatile markets and nervous consumers, regulation and technology, as well as challenges partly of the bank's own making related to reputation and conduct.

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