Repossessions down but customers are still hurting: NAB

September 2, 2023 BY

Eight thousand National Australia Bank customers are deemed at risk of losing their property says CEO Ross McEwan. DARREN ENGLAND/ AAP IMAGE

THE number of homes National Australia Bank has had to repossess, in the wake of a run of recent interest rate rises, is lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bank CEO Ross McEwan said that while 8000 customers were currently deemed at risk of losing their property, just 14 mortgage holders actually needed immediate help.

“The number of mortgages we have in possession, which only happens after a long period of trying to work with a customer, is below not only pre-pandemic levels but also the 10-year average,” Mr McEwan said.

“That’s not to suggest some customers aren’t hurting, they are, and we are here to help.”

Mr McEwan used an address at and Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce function to step up calls for governments at all levels to find a better way to address planning and approvals in order to deliver more housing.

He welcomed National Cabinet’s bid to streamline housing approvals, planning and zoning but criticised inconsistent rules across jurisdictions.

The process of writing a home loan can differ depending on where a buyer lives.

“A co-ordinated response from federal, state and territory governments is needed to implement faster, consistent and simpler planning and approvals,” Mr McEwan said.

“This relates to both land development and residential construction.”

Earlier this month, National Cabinet agreed to a range of rental market reforms and incentives to build new dwellings.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also set a 2024 start date for a scheme to help 40,000 low-income families buy a home.

Meanwhile, Mr McEwan backed predictions Australia won’t fall into a recession and tipped the economy to improve by the second half of 2024.

He revealed NAB customers were, on average, saving an extra $300 a month to cope with the rising cost of living by cutting down on things like takeaway food and car trips to save on fuel.

“Things are harder, and will continue to feel harder for some time, because of the difficult but necessary actions taken to get inflation down,” Mr McEwan said.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been steadily raising interest rates since May 2022 in a bid to beat down inflation, which is currently running at an annual pace of six per cent, compared to one per cent before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Mr McEwan also called on telecommunications companies to do more to stop scams while rejecting suggestions Australia should follow the UK’s lead and introduce laws requiring banks to reimburse victims.

“It hasn’t stopped scams in the UK, they’ve gone up,” he said. “The dollar value may have gone down but the numbers have gone up.”

NAB recently stopped including links in SMS alerts to its customers and Mr McEwan called on others to do the same.

He also warned customers to closely guard their passwords and not to give personal details over the phone.