Staff and specially hired consultants are checking millions of National Australia Bank customer accounts in an internal project to plug holes in the bank’s anti-money laundering measures, CEO Ross McEwan told the parliamentary economics committee.

Local media has previously reported duplicate accounts and out-of-date identification documents expose the bank to possible criminal infiltration.

With the occupation on student bank accounts not updated for 20 years, “scenarios like that are ripe for organised crime to take advantage of them,” member of parliament Julian Simmonds said.

Dubbed Project Apollo, the bank is taking the remediation programme very seriously, McEwan said, adding: “We know our obligations. And we are endeavouring to fulfil them.”

The Age newspaper also quoted him as saying: “The backlog relates to a number of years [and] we are going back and looking at all our customers and making sure we have the data we require to fulfil our obligations and know our customers well. 

“When you go back through nine million customer groupings, that is a huge number. We’ve gone through on a priority level to understand what data are we missing that we should have for customers.”

The bank is also aiming to avoid repeating the same mistake with new customers, he added.

“Let’s be quite clear, this battleground is the battleground every bank is having to fight on. We have to make sure that every customer is known, every transaction is known through every product through every jurisdiction. We are working incredibly hard to get some of the data sources of customer information back up to date,” he said.

McEwan qualified his comments by saying he was restricted in what he could say due to an investigation by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre


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