Trending Financial News 25 November

Westpac share price crashes

Westpac shares have crashed in two days of trading last week and may still fall further when markets open this week.

Westpac (ASX:WBC) shares traded at $29.90 on 27 September 2019 but closed on Friday 22 November at $24.77. WBC was priced at $27.88 as recently as Friday 1 November.

Westpac has been rocked by revelations it did not report 23 million suspect transactions to regulators. The Westpac board is facing calls from government politicians, including the prime minister Scott Morrison to consider their positions. Money laundering regulator, AUSTRAC, could recommend fines totalling billions of dollars against Westpac.

Westpac chairman says sorry

Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted said he unreservedly apologises for the bank’s failure to report suspect international money transactions to regulators. Some of the transactions involved payments to possible child exploitation services in the Philippines.

Mr Maxsted chaired a crisis meeting of the Westpac board on Friday amid criticism of the bank from the prime minister, treasurer and leader of the opposition.

“The notion that any child has been hurt as a result of any failings by Westpac is deeply distressing and we are truly sorry,” said Mr Maxsted.

“The board unreservedly apologises.”

Westpac closes LitePay

Westpac has closed its LitePay international money transfer service. The service is at the centre of allegations that Westpac may have facilitated payments to child exploitation services in the Philippines.

Yesterday, Sunday, Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted announced that the bank would:

Close LitePay immediately

Withhold all or part of Westpac executive team bonuses

“Lift our standards”

Protect people from “the human impact of financial crime.”

The regulator AUSTRAC alleges Westpac management knew about the problem of suspect transactions but was “indifferent” to the issue.

How to find an ethical bank

Revelations about unethical banking behaviour at the Hayne Royal Commission into Financial Services and more recent controversies have some consumers searching for a bank that has higher ethical standards.

Consumers looking for an ethical bank can seek guidance from the “About Us” pages on bank websites as well as the Responsible Investment Association Australasia and the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. Both of these organisations have a set of standards for ethical banking and certify banks that meet the standard.

Australian banks sign up to United Nations Banking Principles

In September the United Nations launched the UN Principles of Responsible Banking. Australian signatories are ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac.

The United Nations principles require banks to:

Align their business strategy to Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Increase “positive impacts while reducing negative impacts on people and environment.”

Establish sustainable practices that create shared prosperity.

Engage stakeholders to achieve society’s goals.

Implement effective governance

Which bank is the most ethical?

Responsible Investment Association Australasia chief executive Simon O’Connor told that ethical banks adhere to responsible lending guidelines, assist customers in hardship and ensure the proceeds of their activities are ethical.

“We are interested in the use of the proceeds, what sort of activities the bank will fund with the money its raises,” said Mr O’Connor.

For deposit accounts, savings accounts and term deposits, the RIAA it has certified Bank Australia, Teachers Mutual Bank and Bendigo Bank’s Community Sector Banking.

Bank Australia and Teachers Mutual Bank are the only Australian members of Global Alliance for Banking on Values which is “committed to advancing positive change in the banking sector”.

100 home loans under 3.3% pa

The lowest variable home loan comparison rate right now is 2.7 % pa with 110 variable home loan products for owner -occupiers now charging advertised rates less than 3.3 per cent pa.

“The low rate mortgage market is really hot right now with great deals and rate cuts being announced every week,” said Vadim Taube, CEO of InfoChoice.

“There is no better time to refinance to a super low rate, the RBA has reported last week that many Aussie borrowers are doing just that.

“If your bank is not offering a great discounted rate, you can find alternatives that can reduce your repayments by hundreds of dollars per month.

Ten top Low Rate variable home loan (OO, P&I) listed on InfoChoice* 24 November 2019

Savers can still get over 2% pa

No big bank savings account or term deposit is paying significantly above the inflation rate of 1.7 per cent pa.

“Savers can still get at-call savings rates over 2.0 per cent pa if they look around and compare,” said Vadim Taube.

“Savers with money deposited in a bank account earning less than 1.7 per cent pa are falling behind the rate of inflation.

“If your savings account is not paying you a decent rate, look around at what some of the online banks are offering,” said Vadim Taube.