COMMENT:

New Zealand's banks need to up their game on customer conduct - today's review made that clear in no uncertain terms.

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) and Reserve Bank review of Bank Conduct and Culture effectively calls time on hard selling practices that were creeping into the New Zealand banking sector.

The banks will be expected to stop incentivising staff to up-sell customers on things like insurance and KiwiSaver.

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They'll be expected to improve their processes for handling customer complaints.

If they don't make changes they'll face the risk of being named and shamed by the FMA, Reserve Bank or Commerce Commission.

The Government may also make changes to cover any gaps in the authority of those three regulators.

But against the backdrop of public outrage and political scrutiny going on across the Tasman the local banks must know they've dodged a bullet.

They've being called out for deficiencies in their focus on conduct and some specific examples have been highlighted - without the naming of names.

But the review has acknowledged that many of the banks were already making changes.

The big four banks whose parent companies are in sights of Australian regulators - ASB, Westpac, BNZ and ANZ - had already started moving to address the issues raised.

The review indicates that the Banks should take heed of the Australian findings and cross-reference their behaviour accordingly.

ANZ New Zealand chairman John Key couldn't have been more on the money in his speech to the Financial Industry (INFINZ) conference last week.

"I think that they should cross-reference [the Australian inquiry] with the New Zealand legislation, look at any gaps and if there are they should just fast track the process and implement them."

If anything the FMA and Reserve Bank has moved more cautiously than that.

It keeps the onus on the banks to self-improve, for now.

This review process has been deftly managed by two very smart and experienced operators in Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr and FMA chief executive Rob Everett.

So, the banks are on notice and further movement towards the kind of aggressive practices seen in Australia will not be tolerated.

But our regulatory regime remains relatively light. They certainly aren't being told to stop making money.

As Orr told the media press conference today: "Our banks are highly profitable, which is a very good thing."