Banks inquiry's first focus on lending

Former High Court justice Kenneth Hayne will preside over the banks royal commission

The inquiry will examine submissions from both financial institutions detailing their wrongdoing and inability "to meet community expectations", as well as submissions from members of the public.

He acknowledged, as stated in the letters of patent for the Commission, that Australia has one of the strongest, most stable and most profitable banking and superannuation financial services sectors in the world.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne, a former High Court judge, has 12 months to conduct his investigation and lodge a report with Canberra.

With uncertainty over the issue hurting offshore investor confidence, he announced the inquiry late a year ago to probe "the nation's banks, big and small, wealth managers, superannuation providers, insurance companies".

It was called in December in response to public outrage at billions of dollars of financial scandals in recent years, many uncovered through investigative reporting.

No public submissions were taken today, but Commissioner Hayne said they were an "important" part of the inquiry, however time constraints will mean all cases of misconduct can not be investigated.

Hayne must provide an interim report by 30 September and a full report by 1 February 2019.

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He said he recognised the central importance of public discussion and examination of the issues of concern.

The first round of public hearings, to begin next month, will focus on inappropriate lending practices across mortgages, credit cards and vehicle loans.

"We will have to proceed in reference to case studies and examples, with a view to identify the kinds of misconduct that have occurred, why it occurred, what should have been, and what was the response to discovering the misconduct and what follows from those conclusions".

Buying a property is likely to be the most substantial, and perhaps the most stressful, financial transaction in the average Australian's life, senior counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr SC said.

Orr said the evidence the commission has reviewed so far suggests that consumers have not always enjoyed this right. The next big chunk - at 18% - relates to superannuation.

A further 9 per cent of complaints to the commission related to financial advice.

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