The independent committee that monitors the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice (the Code) has released its Annual Report for a year marked by the ongoing challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and expectations of the financial services industry to embed extensive regulatory changes stemming from the Financial Services Royal Commission.

The report can be accessed here.

Customer owned banking institutions serve about 18% of Australia’s population and manage $147 billion in assets. Fifty-seven customer-owned banking institutions subscribe to the Code.

The report describes the activities of the Customer Owned Banking Code Compliance Committee (the Committee) in 2020-21 which included investigations; own motion inquiries; publication of findings; engagement with subscribers, consumer advocates and regulators; the collection of breach and complaint data in the Annual Compliance Statement (ACS); providing individualised Benchmark Reports to all subscribers; and offering observations and guidance about industry trends.

Committee Chair Jocelyn Furlan acknowledged the continuing challenges facing the customer owned banking sector as a result of COVID 19, but noted “While the volatility of the past two years demonstrates that effective risk management frameworks are absolutely critical for organisations, so too is the need to find increasingly effective ways to support customers through challenging times.”

The Committee considered eleven matters for investigation and published two Own Motion Inquiries, one investigating the use of consumer credit insurance and the other providing learnings from the previous year’s ACS Verification Program.

The Committee continued to collect and analyse Code subscribers’ self-reported breach and complaints data received via the 2019-20 ACS and an individualised Benchmark Report was provided to all Code subscribers. The Committee continued to engage with the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) to discuss the review of the Code, as well as meeting with other key stakeholders, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Financial Complaint Authority (AFCA) in relation to customer owned banking issues.

Helping customer owned banks achieving compliance

In line with its purpose, the Committee will continue to monitor Code compliance, identify systemic industry-wide issues and promote good industry practice. The Committee looks forward to helping subscribers to achieve compliance and meet their service goals in the future.