National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney has warned that Australia is facing years of modest economic growth and higher jobless rates.
However the bank, Australia’s largest lender to business, says there are some tentative signs of an improving economic environment that it can take advantage of.
Mr Chaney said business conditions in Australia would remain subdued unless economic reform and restructuring continued.
“That is the challenge facing governments and all participants,” he told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Melbourne.
“It seems clear that Australia is faced with, at best, some years of modest economic growth and rising unemployment.”
Conditions for the bank’s customers remained mixed across sectors, with a high exchange rate weighing on exporters this year, the labour market soft, government efforts to return budgets to surplus restraining spending and wary consumers saving, rather than spending.
The bank was looking forward to the federal government’s financial systems inquiry, Mr Chaney said.
Chief executive Cameron Clyne said the bank’s commitment to Australian business was stronger than competitors and it had maintained its leading business banking market share of 23.5 per cent of business lending.
The bank posted a recent record annual cash profit of $5.94 billion.
However, the board faced criticism from shareholders on Thursday for underperforming the three other major banks in earnings and shareholders, returns in recent years that had led it to it falling from first to fourth in market capitalisation.