Mary Poppins and the banking royal commission

Mary Poppins and the banking royal commission
Mary Poppins and the banking royal commission

Even in the cool of the darkened cinema over the summer break, bankers could not escape their deserved opprobrium. The plot of the movie, Mary Poppins Returns was premised on the pending mortgagee repossession of the London family home of Annabel, John and Georgie at 17 Cherry Lane.

The new boss of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, played by Colin Firth, ruthlessly sought to fraudulently repossess the grand terrace.

The unflappable, magical, but blunt Mary Poppins and the three children saved the house from foreclosure, and their hapless father from humiliation, with the bank returning to the honourable banking practices of the past.

Perhaps the Australian banking royal commissioner, Kenneth Hayne got to take his grandchildren to the Poppins sequel, although Hayne was officially spending the Christmas break finalising his much anticipated report. 

His exposure of recent boom time fraud and exploitation of borrowers by the big banks had already seen him deliver far more than the government and the public bargained for during the scandal-ridden hearings. The hearings proved we can’t place much trust in our regulators, commission-empowered advisors, the banking ombudsmen, the costly legal system to deliver justice and indeed the government to do their job.

Hayne's final report will have far reaching consequences, without any spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Although the banks could benefit from the grenade thrown into the mortgage broking industry.

Tom Ravlic, the author of ‘Vulture City: How Banks Got Rich on Swindle’ (Wilkinson Publishing) due for publication later this year, wrote in The Telegraph last month that unquestioning, uncritical blind trust can no longer be afforded to lending institutions.

But I'd suggest the borrowing public need to take responsibility too. No one should care more about your money than you. I'd argue consumers need to spruce up their knowledge of financial products and the legal consequences of decisions. We know that most Australians spend more time on their footy tips than financial affairs.

The bank's own demonstrable swing towards more responsible lending practices in 2018 was overdue, but went too far. Common sense lending would anticipate property purchases typically trigger a more spartan lifestyle by the buyer than them continuing their spending habits from before their property purchase. 

But last year we saw these discretionary lifestyle costs - such as uber eating habits, Netflix and even any weekend betting slips - included in the calculations by over reactionary lenders in their ultra cautious loan application reviews that severely reduced loan capacity. 

We have a buyer's market, except they can't all buy what they previously thought they could afford because the bank's reaction to the exposure of some reckless lending exposed by the royal commission.

A couple with one child and a dual income of $120,000 could borrow $800,000 during the boom. Fast forward and the same couple, now with only mild wages growth to a $129,000 combined salary along with a second child, can only borrow $680,000 because of much stricter bank lending.

Their capacity to buy has gone backwards, and so too did prices, not surprisingly. This adjustment to price and capacity hit the market hard last year, but 2019 is likely to see buyers and vendors alike, become more accepting of the new landscape.

And there's already talk among buyers' agents that securing a bank loan has become easier this year.

This first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

Banking Royal Commission

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