While Comyn basked in the glow of a record profit, Lowe sweated in Canberra under the glare of the Senate estimates, members of which took turns asking accusatory questions.
Instead, Comyn carefully crafts his comments about the RBA.
The last thing bank bosses want is to face the tirade of populist criticism Lowe has grappled with in recent weeks.
On the one hand, Comyn says: “We monitor changes in our customers’ circumstances very closely. We recognize that the prospect of higher rates is a cause for concern and concern for many of our customers.”
On the other hand, he understands the difficult balancing act that the RBA is negotiating.
“The difficulty of not raising interest rates any further is [that it] risks inflation becoming more entrenched – and history has shown that it is [then] harder to reduce and requires higher rates for longer.”
He says if companies expect higher rates for a longer period of time, they are likely to keep raising prices and workers would expect higher wages.
“I think they are weighing the short-term against the long-term. It is a worrying concern for our customers and a difficult decision for central banks and an unpopular one.”
While the Commonwealth Bank is getting a boost to profits from higher interest rates, it also recognizes there comes a point when stressed households are struggling to service their mortgages and loan defaults are mounting.
But what emerges from CBA’s half-year earnings announcement on Wednesday is that that hasn’t happened yet.
The percentage of customers with 90-day mortgage arrears continues to decline. This can be partly explained by the still disproportionately high number of borrowers with low fixed interest rates and significant savings buffers on offsetting accounts.
Households are only feeling the effects of around 50 percent of the rate hikes. This number will rise to 75 percent by July, so we will see an increasing impact on households, which will feed into consumption.
This is the fixed rate cliff that would keep bank bosses like Comyn up at night. We no longer approach it – we sit on its peak. The lion’s share of these fixed-rate mortgages expire in the current half year and the following one.
And it’s a $96 billion cliff for CBA clients, so it’s inevitable that some will struggle to make the interest payments, although some have built up a savings buffer to protect themselves.
So far, all major banks have passed the full hike in RBA interest rates on to borrowers, but investors fear competition will erode some of the luster of interest margins.
They also worry that banks are currently in a sweet spot and things could get worse.
But it’s a fair bet Lowe would rather be in Comyn’s shoes right now.
https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/rate-rises-lowe-takes-the-heat-cba-banks-the-profit-20230215-p5cks5.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_business Lowe takes the heat, CBA banks the win.”