Aussie bank CEO, chairman resign after major inquiry

SYDNEY: The chief executive and chairman of Australia's fourth largest bank, National Australia Bank (NAB), are quitting, following a major inquiry that levelled blistering criticism at the country's financial sector for widespread misconduct.

After a year-long inquiry that exposed a culture of greed in the financial sector, the Royal Commission this week issued a final report that singled out the NAB chiefs for their apparent unwillingness to accept responsibility for past wrongs at the lender.

The departures of NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn and chairman Ken Henry show the slow-burn pressure the inquiry has had on the country's biggest companies, even as some consumer groups complained that the Royal Commission went too soft.

Mr Thorburn had ruffled shareholders by planning two months of leave on either side of the Royal Commission's delivery of its final report, which was hotly anticipated as a watershed moment for the country's banking industry.

After the report went public on Monday, Mr Thorburn cancelled the rest of his leave.

While he released a statement disagreeing with the report's criticism of his attitude, he told local media on Tuesday that he was not sure he would last the week.

"I acknowledge that the bank has sustained damage as a result of its past practices and comments in the Royal Commission's final report," Mr Thorburn said in a statement issued by NAB yesterday.

"I have always sought to act in the best interests of the bank and customers, and I know that I have always acted with integrity, however I recognise there is a desire for change."

NAB said board member Phil Chronican, a former executive at larger rival Westpac Banking, will be interim CEO.

Analysts see NAB's chief customer officer Mike Baird, a former premier of New South Wales state, as a likely successor. - REUTERS