ANZ Bank has sacked a “small” group of its bankers for taking illegal drugs at a work-related event and recently let another staff member go for sexually harassing a woman from a rival banking organisation at a separate outing.
ANZ revealed the sackings in an all staff email sent on Monday by the bank’s group executive talent and culture Kathryn van der Merwe that also detailed a massive surge in whistleblower cases at the bank.
Ms van der Merwe described the behaviour in her email to staff as “unacceptable”.
“Earlier this year Shayne (Elliott, chief executive of ANZ) shared with line managers a true story where a small number of ANZ people used illegal drugs at an out-of-hours work-related event,” Ms van der Merwe wrote.
“We took swift action and the people involved are no longer employed by ANZ.”
The action came as banking culture is in the spotlight with the federal government under pressure to establish an inquiry into the entire financial services sector.
Ms van der Merwe said that another recent case involved an ANZ employee who attended an industry event that was not put on by the ANZ.
At the event the employee made “unwelcomed sexual comments and advances towards a female from another bank”, she said.
“The conduct occurred at a bar in the evening. Make no mistake – even though the conduct did not occur during work hours or at an ANZ event – his conduct was found to be work-related and he was dismissed.”
The email also revealed that whistleblower cases were up a staggering 80 per cent in the past 12 months.
Ms van der Merwe encouraged staff to speak up and report behaviour that was outside of the bank’s standards.
“As you have seen recently in the media, speaking up about unacceptable behaviour can have a powerful impact and help generate important change.”
A spokesman for ANZ declined to comment on the email saying it spoke for itself.
He said the increase in whistleblower cases was the result of ANZ making its whistleblower process more transparent to ensure staff were aware of the safeguards and process.
Ms van der Merwe indicated in her email that other staff had been dismissed for behaviour that fell outside of the bank’s policies.
“Sometimes you might see or hear about unacceptable behaviour in the ANZ workplace – and if you don’t hear about the consequence, it’s easy to think there wasn’t one,” Ms van der Merwe said.
“This year, some of our people have been dismissed, others have received verbal and written warnings and we have reduced remuneration for senior leader who were rated inconsistent.”
In 2015 ANZ trader Etienne Alexiou sued the bank for breach of contract under unfair dismissal laws claiming he had been a victim of the bank’s bawdy, drug-fuelled culture which included taking drugs at work events, drinking to excess, boasting of sexual exploits and frequent visits to strip clubs.
He later dropped the suit citing high costs and personal pressure associated with the case.
ANZ at the time denied it had a culture issue.