Lobby group laments criticism over bank super profits

Kieran Salsone

THE lobby group representing Australia's banks has urged people to think twice before criticising banks for making record profits.

ANZ on Thursday recorded a record full-year cash profit of $6 billion - up 6% on the previous 12 months.

The result, which was better than most economists had forecast, came a day after the Australian Bankers' Association launched a pre-emptive defence of bank profits ahead of the reporting season.

ABA chief executive Steven Münchenberg said it was "important banks are profitable".

"Australia's banking sector is an important contributor to our country's economic growth," Mr Münchenberg said.

"In 2011, the finance and insurance industry contributed $129.8 billion to our economy - that's about 10% of GDP, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"Banks employed more than 211,000 people across the country; paid $15.8billion in dividends to shareholders."

Mr Münchenberg said it was important for Australia to avoid becoming complacent.

He said Australia's banks needed to remain "solid and reliable" as the effects of the global financial crisis continued to batter Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom.

"Unlike overseas, banks here did not fail, nor did they require government bail-outs.

"Australia's healthy banks continue to keep our savings safe and to make loans which keep the Australian economy moving."

With the onset of the reporting season, the ABA has produced a factsheet to outline why bank profits are "important".

"When commentating on banks' profits it's useful to look at some benchmarks. For example, when looking at return on equity, only two banks feature in the 50 most profitable listed companies in Australia," Mr Münchenberg said.

"When viewed against the size of the banks' asset bases, revenue is relatively low. Revenue is only about 6.7% of total bank assets. Profits represent just 1% of bank assets."

Read the 14-page fact sheet

Recent research showed Australia's big four banks were slow to pass on Reserve Bank cash rate cuts.

The research also showed banks failed to pass on the full value of cuts, while hiking rates in excess of any RBA decisions to raise rates.

But ANZ CEO Mike Smith defended his bank's decision not to pass on the most recent cash rate cut in full, despite the record profit.

"We have to look at our own funding costs in terms of what it costs us to raise the money to what we then pass on to people who borrow money from us," Mr Smith said.

"And in terms of how much we can pass on, in terms of an official rate cut, that will depend on how the market is performing."

None of the big four banks passed on the recent rate cut in full.

The ANZ profit came after the Commonwealth Bank announced an 11% jump in profits to $7.1 billion in August.

ANZ shareholders will be paid a dividend of $1.45 per share. The bank's share price was down slightly at the close on Thursday.

Topics:  anz, big banks, profits




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