SYDNEY (AFP) - National Australia Bank (NAB) announced on Thursday (Feb 7) its chairman and chief executive were stepping down just days after a major inquiry into the country's scandal-plagued finance sector singled out the bank's leadership for criticism.
NAB chairman Ken Henry said he would soon retire, while CEO Andrew Thorburn announced his resignation, both saying they were "deeply sorry" in the wake of a damning report detailing rampant customer abuse in the industry.
"As CEO, I understand accountability. 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," Thorburn, who will leave at the end of the month, said in a statement.
"However, I recognise there is a desire for change. As a result, I spoke with the Board and offered to step down as CEO, and they have accepted my offer."
On Monday, the Royal Commission in the sector handed down its final report calling for rules to be revised, and for more regulation and oversight of the sector, including Australia's "big four" banks.
The year-long investigation, which revealed rampant misconduct and poor treatment of customers, referred more than 20 cases to regulators for possible prosecution.
The big banks were sharply criticised, with Henry and Thorburn singled out for being unwilling to acknowledge their organisation's mistakes.
"Having heard from both the CEO, Mr Thorburn, and the Chair, Dr Henry, I am not as confident as I would wish to be that the lessons of the past have been learned," said the inquiry's commissioner, former High Court judge Kenneth Hayne.
Henry said he would retire from the board when a new CEO is appointed.
"I am enormously proud of what the bank has achieved and equally disappointed about what the Royal Commission has brought to light in areas where we have not met customer expectations," he said. "Andrew and I are deeply sorry for this."
NAB put a halt on trading about 30 minutes before the ASX closed on Thursday. It was up 1.3 per cent to A$24.93 at the time.