Here’s what the bank’s chair and CEO had to say at its AGM.
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This comes as the result of a series of structural reforms made in consequence to the bank’s internal review into governance, accountability and culture in 2018, and following the Financial Services Royal Commission, Chronican says.
The address also confirmed the bank is changing the way it pays its “colleagues”, shifting 12,000 bankers onto “100% fixed pay”, whilst holding senior leaders accountable by keeping a sum of their pay at risk.
In a lengthy dialogue, NAB’s chair and CEO, Ross McEwan, gave an extensive overview of the bank’s cultural and structural shifts that are ongoing, and what to expect for the future. Here are some of the key takeouts.
Scaling up, sustainably?
NAB’s acquisition of ‘neobank’ 86 400, and the proposed acquisition of Citigroup’s Australian consumer business will enable it to quickly build scale up its digital and consumer offerings, the bank says.
Not only that, but NAB’s Strategic Net Promoter Score increased four points to -7 in FY21. This is equal first amongst its peers and marks a 10-point increase from -17 in 2019, the release notes.
NAB also noted that future dividends will be guided by a target payout ratio in the range of 65% to 75% of
sustainable cash earnings, subject to circumstances at the time.
Shareholders enjoyed a cash Return on Equity (ROE) of 10.7% in FY21, a 2.4 percentage point gain over the last year. However, this is still behind its pre-pandemic figures.
Its capital ratio at the end of September 2021 was 13%, and thus above the target range of 10.75% to 11.25%. As such, NAB’s “preference” is to reduce its share count, so it can deliver “better earnings and dividends per share over the long term”.
This is already underway through its $2.5 billion share buy-back, which started in August and is approximately 40% complete already.
NAB also says that it is winding down its financing of fossil fuels over time, while at the same time growing exposure to renewable energy finance. For instance, it notes that it is the only major Australian bank so far to “have set an upper limit on oil and gas extraction and production exposures, and to put restrictions on lending to greenfield gas projects”.
Specifically, Chronican noted that NAB “will not directly finance any greenfield oil extraction project or onboard new customers predominantly focused on oil extraction [nor] we will not lend to new thermal coal mining projects or take on new thermal coal mining customers”.
Target exposures to thermal coal mining are set to be effectively zero by 2030, aside from residual performance guarantees to ensure site rehabilitation, according to the release.
For its own actions, NAB is also “well progressed in [its] target to source 100% of [its] own electricity from renewable sources by 2025”.
Speaking on the announcement, Ross McEwan, NAB’s Managing Director & CEO said:
About half of our 1.3 billion dollar investment spend in the 2022 financial year will be discretionary and will be directed to key strategic initiatives such as further simplification and automation of our systems, as well as enhanced use of data and analytics, to help customers and our bankers. Partnerships in Australia and globally are helping us innovate faster and develop world-class products and services for our customers. We are working with international non-competing banks, big tech and fintech to access global scale and ideas, looking beyond domestic peers as a competitive benchmark. We are investing heavily to protect customers, the bank, and the broader financial system from the growing threat of cyber security, fraud and financial crime.
NAB shares have gained 22% in the last 12 months after rallying around 28% this year to date.
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