Fitch Ratings warned Australia's banks their conduct risk is a growing threat to the industry

Sean Gallup – GettyImages

Bank culture has moved to centre stage of the political debate with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull chiding the major banks for recent scandals and conduct at a Westpac function this week.

But questions about culture run deeper and could have lasting financial impacts according to one of the Big Three credit rating agencies, Fitch Ratings.

“Recent revelations about alleged conduct issues at a number of Australian banks highlight increased regulatory scrutiny of conduct and culture in the financial system. Fines, class-action law suits, increased regulatory oversight and remedial action are all possible outcomes from this push,” Fitch said.

Longer term Fitch says the regulatory focus “should ultimately result in a stronger compliance culture within Australia’s banking system,” but added that this can take some time and the risk is “the more immediate impact would be banks suffering some reputational damage”.

Fitch suggests any penalties, fines or remedial action won’t have a meaningful financial impact on the banks involved, but highlights that like banks offshore, conduct risk is an “an increasingly relevant issue” management needs to address.

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